ICMR releases dementia research and assessment tool

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New Delhi: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Wednesday released a dementia research and assessment tool in five languages.

The tool consisting of various tests and questionnaires is available in five Indian languages - Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam - and is freely accessible to professionals and researchers across the country, the ICMR said in a statement.

The Multilingual Dementia Research and Assessment Toolbox, or MUDRA Toolbox, was framed collectively by seven leading centres - NIMHANS (Bengaluru), AIIMS (New Delhi), SCTIMST (Thiruvananthapuram), NIMS (Hyderabad), Apollo Hospital (Kolkata), Manipal Hospital (Bengaluru) and Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College.

ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava said, "This was one of the crucial needs for undertaking uniform, standardised dementia research in the country. The toolbox includes various cognitive tests to assess different domains of cognition such as attention and executive function, memory, language, and visuospatial functions."

"The questionnaires assess depression, functionality, quality of life, prevalence of neuropsychiatric symptoms and informant questionnaire on cognitive decline in elderly. The ICMR has decided to make this tool freely accessible to professionals and researchers across the country. We hope this would be used in quality longitudinal studies and for early and accurate diagnosis of dementia," he said.

The tool includes a five-minute cognitive screening instrument for the busy clinic, and a detailed version for more in-depth clinical testing or for research.

It is a pioneering initiative undertaken by ICMR Neuro Cognitive Tool Box (ICMR-NCTB) consortium to transform India's dementia and mild cognitive impairment research and clinical practices, according to the statement.

According to the Dementia India Report 2010 by Alzheimer's and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI), there are approximately 5.29 million people living with dementia in India and this number is expected to increase to 7.61 million by 2030.

Dementia refers to a neurological disorder that causes a decline in a person's cognition and affects their ability to carry on with day-to-day activities.

Despite the high number of people with dementia in the country, only one in 10 people with dementia are diagnosed in India due to low awareness and the lack of linguistically and culturally appropriate tests that are essential for diagnosis, the ICMR said in the statement.

Early diagnosis is key to optimal management of the disease and adequate care for people with dementia.

Dr R S Dhaliwal, Head of Non-Communicable Diseases division, said the ICMR commissioned the multidisciplinary project with team of researchers from various fields, including neurologists, psychologists, and speech-language pathologists, to develop a culturally, educationally and linguistically relevant neurocognitive toolbox.

The investigators had worked very hard over the last six years to develop and validate the tool in Indian population, the statement said.

Dr Meenakshi Sharma, a senior scientist of ICMR, said the toolbox is designed to provide detailed neuropsychological profile of a patient and is a standardised measure of diagnosis for mild cognitive impairment and dementia.

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