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August 27, 2018 The key to treating and preventing dementia could lie in diagnosing early cognitive decline sooner.

With this goal in mind, Baycrest scientists, in collaboration with the Toronto Dementia Research Alliance (TDRA), are developing a more sensitive and comprehensive diagnostic test, the Toronto Cognitive Assessment (TorCA).

“The current gold standard to diagnose someone with mild cognitive impairment involves a full neuropsychology workup, which can take from three to five hours, and not all individuals have easy access to this resource,” says Dr. Morris Freedman, Baycrest’s Head of Neurology and Rotman Research Institute scientist, and the Baycrest lead for TorCA’s development, along with colleagues from the TDRA. “Our assessment facilitates better understanding of cognitive performance and can be used in any clinical setting, such as a memory clinic or a doctor’s office. It can also be administered by any trained healthcare professional.”

The TorCA gathers extensive details about a person’s condition through a series of cognitive exams and is administered in about 40 minutes. Currently, the TorCA has been validated to detect mild cognitive impairment linked to memory loss; individuals with this condition have a higher risk of developing dementia.

Freedman,-Morris.jpg“The TorCA has the potential to save both time and physical resources by identifying patients who may not require neuropsychological assessments to diagnose early cognitive decline linked to dementia,” says Dr. Freedman, who is an expert on clock drawing to assess a person’s cognitive abilities. He is also a neurology professor at the University of Toronto.

The TorCA has also been programmed to be administered on an iPad, which helps speed up patient evaluation and will assist in the creation of a patient’s electronic health record. The TorCA on the iPad is being rolled out across memory clinics in Toronto as part of the TDRA’s database and will facilitate sharing research data across institutions to accelerate dementia research. Baycrest was the pilot site for implementing TorCA on the iPad.

This work was supported by Brain Canada, TDRA Partner Institutions, the University of Toronto, the Edwards Family Foundation, the Ontario Brain Institute, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Saul A. Silverman Family Foundation, Morris Kerzner Memorial Fund, Brill Chair in Neurology, Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation, Irene MacDonald Sobey Endowed Chair in Curative Approaches to Alzheimer’s Disease and the George, Margaret and Gary Hunt Family Chair in Geriatric Medicine.

As next steps, the team will continue validating the test for other neurological conditions. The TorCA is also being translated into other languages including French, Russian, Ukrainian and Arabic.

With additional funding, researchers could speed up TorCA’s validation, translate the assessment to additional languages and move towards global adoption. Support Dr. Freedman’s work by donating online or calling the donations line at 416-785-2875.
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