Can digital technology enhance the ability of neuropsychologists to detect nuanced behaviors in people in the earliest stages of a dementia? A recent study by the Libon Lab, a collaborative group of neuroscientists including Dr. Rod Swenson, recently published a study in Alzheimer's and Dementia, that directly answered that question. Using well-defined groups with or without Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI-non MCI), patients were given a digital version of the Backward Digit Span Test (BDT) consisting of 7 trials of 5 digits backwards. Regardless of group, the only BDT trials analyzed were those that were done at 100% correctly, In other words, the total score was equal for both groups and using that total score would not differentiate the groups.
However, by analyzing latencies of responses across all 5 trials, information that could only be captured digitally, MCI and non-MCI patients showed distinct differences of how they produced their responses. These latencies further predicted impaired performances on other standard neuropsychological tests as well as reduced volumetric imaging measures of brain regions associated with BDT performance. Process analysis of latency behavior, that could only be captured digitally for this simply administered task, a task which was done correctly by all patients in the study, was able to identify a meaningful neurocognitive biomarker for emergent illness.