Dementia is a complex clinical state, which shows variations in the structure of brain pathology. Importantly, not all people with dementia suffer from Alzheimer’s disease (though this remains the commonest underlying pathology), and not all experience forgetfulness as the first sign of mental difficulty.

One type of dementia that has been extensively studied over recent years is one that begins with difficulty understanding and/or producing speech and language – a pattern known as ‘primary progressive aphasia’ (PPA).

Because language is such a complex mental ability, and relies on a number of widely distributed brain areas, PPA can take a variety of forms. Currently, three distinct patterns are recognised:

Some patients experience a reduced ability to appreciate the meaning of words or objects (‘semantic dementia’), while in others the problems lie in the production of words and sentences (‘progressive non-fluent aphasia’). A third group displays milder problems, along with a striking inability to repeat spoken sentences (‘logopenic progressive aphasia’).

What are the main aims of the study?

The purpose of this research study is to develop a simple clinical test that can be completed in the course of a doctor’s appointment. The test will help a specialist to decide whether a patient with language problems is suffering from Alzheimer’s or from one of the other, rarer causes of dementia.

What does it involve for a participant?

Participants will be asked to complete a set of tests to measure the brain’s processing abilities, this will involve questions such as remembering a name and address. This will take between 20 and 40 minutes. We will then ask participants to do a detailed language assessment that involves a range of tasks, such as naming pictures of objects, reading, and repeating words and sentences. This will take approximately 90 minutes. Finally, the researcher will administer the new test, which will take approximately 20 minutes to complete. The total time to complete the assessments will be just over 2 hours.

Is it a one-off visit?

Yes, this will be a one-off visit.

What does the team hope the outcomes of the study will be?

The impact and importance of this study will be to refine and define the classification of dementia. Once tested and validated, this brief language test will be given the title of the ‘Mini Linguistic State Examination’ (or ‘MLSE’). The test is intended to be comprehensive yet brief, and capable of being administered by clinicians without special expertise in language assessment.

Where is the study based?

The study is based at St George’s, University of London and University of Cambridge.

Who can take part?

The study is looking for volunteers in the London and Cambridge areas aged between 40-75 years who are not experiencing any problems with any aspect of mental function, so that we can compare the results with those who are.

This study is also looking for people in the London area with Primary Progressive Aphasia.

For validation of the language assessments, volunteers must have English as their first language.

You can see if you are eligible for this study or others around the nation by logging into your Join Dementia Research account.

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