FRIDAY, Feb. 3, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- A series of specific "yes" or "no" questions could help doctors distinguish between people who have normal memory loss that comes with age and those with a condition known as amnestic mild cognitive impairment, according to a new study.
Researchers from Banner Sun Health Research Institute in Arizona developed a questionnaire for patients' relatives or caregivers to complete. Known as AQ, the questionnaire consists of 21 items scored and weighted by how well they predicted problems with memory.
The study, published online Feb. 3 in BMC Geriatrics, found that scores higher than 15 predicted Alzheimer's disease. Totals between 5 and 14 indicated amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI). Questionnaire scores of 4 or lower indicated no problems with memory.
The researchers noted that six of the questions are known to be predictive of Alzheimer's disease and were given extra weighting. At least four questions were strongly linked to a diagnosis of amnestic mild cognitive impairment.
"People with aMCI were more often reported as repeating questions and statements, having trouble knowing the date or time, having difficulties managing their finances and a decreased sense of direction," the study's leader, Michael Malek-Ahmadi, a psychometrist, explained in a journal news release. Psychometry is an area of psychology concerned with psychological measurements.
"While the AQ cannot be used as a definitive guide to diagnosing [Alzheimer's disease] or aMCI, it is a quick and simple-to-use indicator that may help physicians determine which individuals should be referred for more extensive testing," he said.
The study authors noted that their findings are particularly important because those with amnestic mild cognitive impairment are at greater risk for developing Alzheimer's disease. These patients, they added, could benefit from early diagnosis and treatment.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about mild cognitive impairment.