Name That Tune: Musical Test May Help with Early Diagnosis of Cognitive Decline

A new pilot study is creating excitement, with some dynamic results that seem to suggest that quick and easy music tests can predict cognitive decline in older adults! Cognitive decline is elusive to medical professionals because it is a highly underdiagnosed issue. Although sophisticated machines offer insight into identifying cognitive decline, their process with multi-electrode systems proves to be quite cumbersome for older adults. Researchers from Neurosteer in New York and Tel Aviv University came together to develop a more accessible and streamlined system to test for cognitive decline. 

In this study, 60 patients from the Dorot Geriatric Medical Center were recruited for participation. Their average age was 77, and participants were identified by the clinical staff during their admissions to Dorot Geriatric Medical Center. The goal of the study was to see if this method could assess cognitive states like the Mini-Mental State Examination. Participants were asked to listen to musical snippets and hit a button when they heard the music start to play. This was done many times, and each time the difficulty was increased because the participants were asked to hit that same button when they heard a specific type of instrument being played in the snippet. During this process, an electrode strip placed on the participants’ forehead was recording their electrical activity (i.e., an EEG). Analyses showed that participants’ reaction times to hit the button (after identifying the instrument) and the electrical activity recorded were correlated to their results on the Mini-Mental State Examination.  

This becomes an important pilot study that needs to be tested on other populations, with more participants, to truly understand whether this musical test can join gold standard measures like the Mini-Mental State Examination. If it does, it could offer easy, quick, non-invasive ways for physicians to help diagnose older adults with cognitive decline at the onset. 


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Molcho, L., Maimon, N. B., Regev-Plotnik, N., Rabinowicz, S., Intrator, N., & Sasson, A. (2022). Single-channel EEG features reveal an association with cognitive decline in seniors performing auditory cognitive assessment. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.  

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