Automatic Assessment of Cognitive Tests for Differentiating Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Proof of Concept Study of the Digit Span Task

Author(s): Meysam Asgari*, Robert Gale, Katherine Wild, Hiroko Dodge, Jeffrey Kaye

Journal Name: Current Alzheimer Research

Volume 17 , Issue 7 , 2020

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Background: Current conventional cognitive assessments are limited in their efficiency and sensitivity, often relying on a single score such as the total correct items. Typically, multiple features of response go uncaptured.

Objectives: We aim to explore a new set of automatically derived features from the Digit Span (DS) task that address some of the drawbacks in the conventional scoring and are also useful for distinguishing subjects with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) from those with intact cognition.

Methods: Audio-recordings of the DS tests administered to 85 subjects (22 MCI and 63 healthy controls, mean age 90.2 years) were transcribed using an Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) system. Next, five correctness measures were generated from Levenshtein distance analysis of responses: number correct, incorrect, deleted, inserted, and substituted words compared to the test item. These per-item features were aggregated across all test items for both Forward Digit Span (FDS) and Backward Digit Span (BDS) tasks using summary statistical functions, constructing a global feature vector representing the detailed assessment of each subject’s response. A support vector machine classifier distinguished MCI from cognitively intact participants.

Results: Conventional DS scores did not differentiate MCI participants from controls. The automated multi-feature DS-derived metric achieved 73% on AUC-ROC of the SVM classifier, independent of additional clinical features (77% when combined with demographic features of subjects); well above chance, 50%.

Conclusion: Our analysis verifies the effectiveness of introduced measures, solely derived from the DS task, in the context of differentiating subjects with MCI from those with intact cognition.

Keywords: Neuropsychological tests, short term memory, digit span, biomarkers, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), computerized assessment.

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Article Details

Year: 2020
Published on: 08 October, 2020
Page: [658 - 666]
Pages: 9
DOI: 10.2174/1567205017666201008110854
Price: $65

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