Researchers, for the first time, have developed a test that helps detect early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, by simply sitting at home._Ricky/Flickr

Researchers, for the first time, have developed a test that helps detect early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, from home.

Interestingly, the pen-and-paper test - developed by a team of researchers from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in the US - takes only less than 15 minutes to give an accurate diagnostic result.

The Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE), works by analysing the user's language skills, memory, reasoning and problem solving ability.

Though the test cannot detect Alzheimer's or dementia directly, by going through the test results doctors can deduce whether a person is at the early stages of these brain disorders and needs further screening, monitoring or interventions.

"What we found was that this SAGE self-administered test correlated very well with detailed cognitive testing," Dr. Douglas Scharre said, in a news release. "If we catch this cognitive change really early, then we can start potential treatments much earlier than without having this test."

Nearly 1,047 people, aged 50 and above, participated in the study. Dr. Scharre and colleagues selected the participants from senior centers, health fairs, independent or assisted living facilities and through newspaper advertisements.  

The test evaluated a person's ability to tell the correct date, month, year; language skills, particularly verbal fluency and picture naming; memory skills; reasoning and computation; problem solving and visuospatial abilities. Failing at six or more tasks from the 22 points involved in the test means a person needs re-screening and follow-up by the doctor.

At the end of the study, nearly 28 percent of the participants exhibited some kind of cognitive impairment.

The findings, reported in The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, are expected to be a breakthrough as currently there hardly exists any reliable test to diagnose these brain conditions early. An early diagnosis can help provide better interventions and treatments.

According to experts, a person starts getting clinical symptoms nearly 10 years after the disease develops. Doctors diagnose it through symptoms and testing thyroid disorder, vitamin deficiency, brain imaging and neuropsychological factors. The whole procedure takes time to give an accurate diagnosis, thus delaying the treatment and the possibility of recovery. Examination of brain after death is the only accurate way available to confirm the disease at the moment.