Alzheimer's, Dementia & Mental Health
Dementia Screening May Soon Be Done at Home with New
Software patterned after paper-and-pencil Clock
Drawing Test - commonly used screening exam for cognitive impairment -
People with cognitive impairment frequently draw
clocks with missing or extra numbers. Digits are sometimes drawn outside
of the clock. The time is often incorrect. See video below news story.
Oct. 3, 2012 - With baby boomers approaching the
age of 65 and new cases of Alzheimer’s disease expected to increase by
50 percent by the year 2030, Georgia Tech researchers have created a
tool that allows older people to screen themselves for early signs of
dementia. The home-based computer software is patterned after the
paper-and-pencil Clock Drawing Test, one of health care’s most commonly
used screening exams for cognitive impairment.
“Technology allows us to check our weight,
blood-sugar levels and blood pressure, but not our own cognitive
abilities,” said project leader Ellen Yi-Luen Do.
“Our ClockMe System helps older adults identify
early signs of impairment, while allowing clinicians to quickly analyze
the test results and gain valuable insight into the patient’s thought
Georgia Tech’s ClockMe system eliminates the paper
trail and computerizes the test into two main components: the
ClockReader Application and the ClockAnalyzer Application. (See video
below news story.)
ClockReader is the actual test and is taken with a
stylus and computer or tablet. The participant is given a specific time
and instructed to draw a clock with numbers and the correct minute and
hour hands. Once completed, the sketch is emailed to a clinician, who
uses the ClockAnalyzer Application to score the test.
The software checks for 13 traits. They include
correct placement of numbers and hands without extra markings. People
with cognitive impairment frequently draw clocks with missing or extra
numbers. Digits are sometimes drawn outside of the clock. The time is
In addition to scoring automatically and
consistently, ClockAnalyzer records the duration of the test and the
time between each stroke. The software also replays the drawing in
real-time, allowing a clinician to watch the drawing being created to
observe any behavior abnormality.
“The traditional paper-and-pencil test is usually
overseen by a technician and later scored by a clinician, who scores the
test based only on the finished drawing,” said Do, a professor in
Georgia Tech’s Colleges of Computing and Architecture.
“By looking at the sketch, the scorer is not able
to decipher whether the person struggled to remember certain numbers
while drawing the clock. The ClockMe system’s timing software highlights
And, because they’re saved electronically, the
drawings can be used to easily compare a person’s cognitive ability
progress or regression over time. Do’s research found that traditional
tests are often filed in a folder and are rarely used for future
The ClockMe system was initially tested at the
Emory Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in Atlanta, where it’s
currently being used in addition to the traditional paper-and-pencil
test. Despite a lack of computer literacy, all of the elderly patients
who used the software during the study said they had no problems with
the pen-based, computer technology.
“For this reason, as well as the ability to send
the drawings directly to clinicians for convenient scoring, we envision
ClockMe as a viable tool for home-based screening,” said Do. “America’s
health care costs are expected to soar as baby boomers become senior
citizens. If a screening tool can be used at home, unnecessary trips to
clinics can be eliminated and medical expenses can be saved.”
Do and her colleagues are hoping to commercialize
the project in the future. Their research was
published in September’s Journal of Ambient Intelligence
and Smart Environments.
Note: This project is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF)
(Award Number SHB-1117665). The content is solely the responsibility of
the principal investigators and does not necessarily represent the
official views of the NSF.
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