Clock Test, And How It Can Help Diagnose Alzheimer’s

A clock test, and how it can help diagnose Alzheimer’s

The clock test  is a really simple diagnostic test. Its purpose is to assess patients’ cognitive impairment and to diagnose potential neurological and psychological disorders.

It was first used in 1953 and is one of the most common tests for identifying early Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

If we were to say that this test is based “merely” on asking a person to draw a clock so that the clock appears to be over ten to eleven, many would doubt its validity and diagnostic effectiveness.

However, there are a few practical aspects that we need to consider what this (apparently) simple test entails.

Above all, you need to understand its instructions: “Draw a clock so that it shows such and such a time.” Then the person has a plan, he uses the co-ordination, and he adjusted näköaistiaan,  visuomotorista coordination  and  visuokonstruktiivista capacity.

It’s not just any old test. Not really,  the cognitive performance required by this clock test makes this test one of the most useful tests in the world. Especially if we compare this to other, much more complex, more expensive, and less reliable tests.

the old man thinks

The clock test can assess cognitive impairment

As we said earlier, this test was developed and first applied in 1953.  It aimed to assess  constructive apraxia  (common in dementia) and also to identify the extent of parietal cortical damage.

Little by little, as people began to see how effective this test was, it became an essential tool in diagnosing cognitive impairment. Especially when it was associated with the first stage of Alzheimer’s.

Performing this test, as we have already explained, is simple. But still, only a trained psychologist should perform this process and analyze its results.

The results of this watch test can shed light on all sorts of different diseases, deficiencies, or brain damage. We must also note that there  are about 15 different ways to evaluate this test.

How is the clock test performed?

Generally, your doctor or psychologist may decide to take this test in one of two ways:

  • The patient draws the clock following the instructions. In this case, the doctor gives the patient a blank piece of paper on which the patient must draw a clock to show that the time is ten to eleven. It is important that the hours are divided correctly inside the circle.
  • The next method is to ask the patient to draw a copy of the clock already drawn. They have to copy the clock exactly: the numbers, the size of the clock, and the hands.
  • Once the patient has completed the test, the physician should ask the patient if he or she is ready and if he or she thinks he or she passed the test well.

At this point, you’re probably wondering why a patient should always draw a clock so that it shows the time is ten to eleven. The matter is so simple, namely, this means that  both visual hemispheres of the brain have to take part.

The patient must also listen to the instructions, understand them, remember what the clock looks like, and how to set each hour in place, and then plan in which direction he will set the hands to point.

How do experts rate the clock test?

As we said, there are many ways to evaluate this test. One can observe the drawn circle, the order of the numbers and their arrangement.

The skilled person can also consider whether the numbers are inside or outside the circle, and whether the numbers are only on the other side of the circle, or whether there are too many of them.

People with schizophrenic disorders have often been obsessed with marking every minute on the dial. Their drawings are also often quite strange, confusing, and almost incomprehensible.

Mary’s case

Maria is 80 years old and she is going with her children to a psychologist for the first time. “I forget things,” he says with a laugh as his rest of his family nods anxiously. The psychologist gathers a little information about Maria, and then talks to Maria to make her relax and get to know her a little better.

He then asks Mary to draw on a paper a clock showing the time to be exactly ten to eleven. The image below shows the result of the test.

Mary’s cognitive decline is evident. This test will not remain Mary’s only test. Experts will perform other psychological tests and strategies to assess whether Maria has Alzheimer’s. But this watch test is a starting point, however, and provides reliable and revealing information.

Maria is already old, and loss of cognitive abilities is common. We must also mention that in recent years, this test has received some fine-tuning.

There is even a pen designed by the Massachusetts Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science of Massachusetts (MIT)  . This pen records a person’s pulse, punctuality, interference, vibration and other irregularities. Thanks to this technology, experts can extract thousands of parameters.

However, the most interesting thing is that experts can make really early diagnoses of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Early observations allow physicians to develop better strategies and treatments.

The clock test is still one of the best tools to detect such diseases.

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