The PROTECT Study

What is Cognitive Testing?

Cognitive psychology is the study of the way humans process information. The mental processes involved in cognition include memory, perception, attention, problem-solving and language. Cognitive psychology was developed properly in the mid-1950s, when psychologists such as Ulric Neisser and Jean Piaget, began to realise the importance of these mental processes in explaining behaviour.

Of course, today it is widely accepted that internal processes are core to understanding human behaviour and how to change it, with therapeutic methods such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy being supported by an extensive evidence base. Cognition has classically been researched in laboratory settings, which although controlled, lacks real-life validity. This is why it’s important for us to assess your cognitive abilities, but to also ask you about your daily living abilities in order to see how the two are linked and affected as we age.

Memory: the process in which information is encoded, stored and retrieved. For the PROTECT Study we are assessing your short-term memory, which is a type of memory that has limited capacity (evidence suggests you can hold 5-9 items for about 20-30 seconds), and plays a role in tests where you have to remember where shapes are on a grid, for example, for a short amount of time.

Perception: recognition and interpretation of sensory stimuli, such as smell, touch and hearing. For PROTECT, we are mainly testing visual perceptive skills, such as the recognition of a round object appearing in a box on a grid, and interpreting it as a football, then being able to perceive the same object again later in the test.

Attention: a state of focused awareness on some aspect of the environment, where you can take in knowledge about relevant stimuli whilst filtering things which aren’t important. In PROTECT assessments, this might be being aware of the type of object shown in a box, and where that box is on a grid, but, for example, filtering out what colour the object was.

Problem-solving: an ability to plan and execute a goal by defining a problem in the right way (working out the rule in a cognitive test), and then generating solutions and picking the right one (this might be working out a way of remembering where the object appeared on the grid such as always starting from left to right, or from top to bottom).

Language: a skill that allows us to translate sounds into words, and makes sense of general verbal output. In the PROTECT Study, the test using sentences such as ‘the circle is encompassed by the square’ tap into grammatical reasoning abilities; our ability to distinguish between words and their location in a sentence to determine the meaning of the sentence.

Consent

Dementia Facts

  • Dementia is an umbrella term. It describes a wide set of symptoms including memory loss, mood changes, and problems with communication
  • There are currently 800,000 people with dementia in the UK
  • There will be over a million people by 2025
  • One in three people over 65 will die with dementia
  • Dementia currently costs the UK over £20 billion each year, and this will rise to £27 billion by 2018