(Photo courtesy of Linus Health)

By drawing a clock, older adults could give themselves more time to stave off cognitive decline and dementia. It sounds fanciful, but the science is robust. 

The “Digital Clock and Recall” test — which includes the aforementioned drawing of a timepiece — was able to better identify early stages of cognitive decline better than paper-and-pencil alternatives, new research shows. 

The examination, developed by Linus Health, is conducted on a tablet and is able to identify early-stage cognitive impairment in an extra 80% of users who initially received wrong diagnoses that found them completely healthy, the research showed.

“The vast majority of cognitive impairment cases are detected reactively, only after patients report memory concerns to healthcare providers,” the study authors wrote. “This underlines the importance of shifting current practices in wide adoption of routine cognitive screening for patients above a certain age.”

The increased availability of drugs, such as lecanemab (Leqembi), which can treat some of the more devastating forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, has created new demand to identify conditions early and offer meaningful treatment to limit the effects of disease. 

Linus’ three-minute clock test involves drawing a clock — first by memory and then from a template — and then recalling a handful of words. The digital tool uses artificial intelligence and can track several metrics, from pressure on the screen to the shape of the drawings, to make a nuanced assessment, the company said.

The digital clock test is one of several quick diagnostic tools designed to flag cognitive issues. The Linus Clock test can be performed on an iPad tablet; those assessments could be conducted outside of a clinical setting, such as at home or at a senior living community. 

A new app version of the Montreal Cognitive Assessment test — which shares some similarities to the clock-drawing test — was released earlier this month, the McKnight’s Tech Daily previously reported.

The Linus clock study recently was published in the journal Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy.