Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Medicine and the Media

An early warning for Alzheimer’s disease?

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 15 June 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3732
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. margaret{at}

A website purports to help users identify the extent of their cognitive impairment, but Margaret McCartney says that patients need better evidence before paying for the recommended vitamin supplements

The Daily Mail reported on 14 May that scientists were trying to create tests to detect Alzheimer’s disease early and that one, “the new Cognitive Function Test, which has been devised by Oxford University scientists, can be taken online in the comfort of a person’s own home.” It continued, “The test, which is free to take, follows a landmark Oxford University study published last year which credits a simple vitamin pill with cutting brain shrinkage linked to Alzheimer’s by up to 500 per cent” (, 14 May, “15-minute online test for dementia: DIY memory quiz detects early signs of Alzheimer’s in people as young as 50”).

The report goes on to say that the test, “which can be found at, has three sections which use computer-based tasks and games to test different components of memory. Those who are believed to be at risk of Alzheimer’s are advised to have a blood test and given a letter to take to their GP.”

The website claims that the “detectable, preclinical phase of Alzheimer’s disease presents as mild cognitive impairment [MCI].” It states, “The specificity of the CFT [cognitive function test] is not yet clear, ie, individuals may score poorly due to aspects other than MCI, …

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