Sunday, November 30, 2008

VC Used to Treat Dementia

Video Conferencing (VC) technology has been used to extend care in psychiatry and other specialties in rural areas, but long distance assessment of dementia has received little attention. A research project supported by the National Institute on Aging at the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center in Dallas, is studying how to use telemedicine technology to conduct neurocognitive testing. The testing will be compared to traditional face-to-face examinations in older Native American and non-Native American adults with or without cognitive impairment.

The oldest segment of our population is the most rapidly growing age group and with advancing age comes the increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of cognitive impairment. A portion of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, where access to medical specialties may be limited. Unlike other ethnic groups in the U.S., more than half of the 2.5 million Native Americans live outside of metropolitan areas, and the percentage of elderly Native Americans is predicted to more than double by the year 2050.

The specific aims for the study are to:

  • Assemble a battery of neurocognitive tests to be administered using VC technology to detect cognitive impairment
  • Conduct traditional face-to-fact testing and compare this information to VC based testing among older healthy controls and patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease as seen at the UT Southwestern Memory Disorders Unit
  • Field test these procedures in a rural Native American Population at the Choctaw Nation Healthcare Center in Southeastern Oklahoma where VC based psychiatric interviews and face-to-face neurocognitive examinations are conducted
  • Expand AD samples and acquire data from healthy controls to explore the psychometric properties of the tests administered and assess the ability of telecognitive evaluations to distinguish cognitively intact and impaired groups.

The research project titled “Telecognitive Assessment: Extending Neuropsychology to Underserved Elders” (1R01AG027776-01A2) was initiated in August 2008 and will continue to May 31, 2011. The principal investigator is Munro Cullum at