Can You Pass These Two Tests That Predict Dementia?

Can You Pass These Two Tests That Predict Dementia?

Dementia—it’s one of the most dreaded diseases of our time. About 5.8 million people are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. And that number is expected to skyrocket to 14 million by 2050.

Determining if someone with memory problems or mild cognitive impairment is headed for a more devastating decline into dementia often involves in-depth cognitive testing. But there are a few other simple tests that can be quite telling. A pair of 2019 studies show that certain quick tests are useful in assessing a person’s risk of developing dementia or in ruling it out.

Sniffing Out Dementia

In a 2019 study that appeared in Alzheimer’s and Dementia, researchers assessed cognitive functioning and administered a smell test known as the Brief Smell Identification Test (BSIT). Losing the sense of smell is often one of the initial warning signs of impending Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms surface.

Previous research has found that people who have problems recognizing odors are more likely to have some of the changes in the brain seen in people with Alzheimer’s disease. This is because odor identification is processed in some of the same brain regions that are ravaged by the disease, including the hippocampus, which is involved in memory and learning.

The 2019 research team from Columbia University found that performing well on the cognitive test as well as the BSIT correlated to a very low risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, 96.5% of the study’s 749 elderly participants who performed well on both assessments did not develop dementia during the four years studied.

Time to Detect Dementia

Another simple tool that is used to screen for Alzheimer’s and other dementias is called the clock-drawing test. A clinician gives a person a blank sheet of paper and asks them to draw a clock that shows a specific time.

If the person can draw the clock accurately and indicate the correct time, it typically rules out dementia. However, if the clock doesn’t look correct, it could be a sign of a serious problem. Researchers have identified the following 6 clock-drawing errors that are indicative of cognitive trouble, such as dementia, with 88% accuracy:

  • Wrong time
  • Missing numbers
  • Number substitutions
  • Number repetition
  • Missing hands
  • Refusal to attempt the task

New research in a 2019 issue of Neuropsychology used brain SPECT imaging to investigate how clock-drawing ability correlates to cerebral blood flow patterns. The study found that individuals who didn’t perform well in clock-drawing had lower levels of blood flow in specific areas of the brain associated with dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease. Low blood flow is the #1 brain imaging predictor that a person will develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Why Brain Imaging Is the Ultimate Test

Functional brain imaging with SPECT is able to reveal abnormal patterns in the brain related to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias years or even decades before symptoms develop. Early detection allows you to make lifestyle changes that can delay the progression of cognitive problems and engage in treatment when it is most effective. The sophisticated imaging technology is also able to rule out dementia by detecting other issues—such as traumatic brain injuries, exposure to toxins, or brain infections—that may be the root cause of memory loss or other cognitive problems.

Test Your Risk

If you’re concerned about your memory or cognitive function and want to assess your risk in the comfort of your own home, try these 2 tests.

Test #1. Brief Smell Identification Test (BSIT)

Can you recognize the following 12 odors that are commonly used in the BSIT? To test your sense of smell, you can order a BSIT kit online.

  • Banana
  • Chocolate
  • Cinnamon
  • Gasoline
  • Lemon
  • Onion
  • Paint thinner
  • Pineapple
  • Rose
  • Soap
  • Smoke
  • Turpentine

Self-Test #2. Clock-Drawing Test

Get a blank sheet of paper and draw a clock that shows 10 minutes after 11. If your clock looks abnormal, or if there are any errors, it’s critical that you seek further evaluation.

At Amen Clinics, we use brain SPECT imaging, as well as cognitive testing, lab work, and other assessments to evaluate memory loss and screen for cognitive dysfunction, Alzheimer’s, and other dementias.

If you want to join the thousands of people who have already visited Amen Clinics and enhanced their brain function with our personalized treatment plans and Memory Rescue program, speak to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.


  1. My question is: Have you presented this to Congress to get cost lowered with insurance for seniors and others?

    Comment by Phipps — February 19, 2020 @ 5:02 AM

  2. I’m concerned about speech & forgetfulness.

    Comment by Jeanne — February 19, 2020 @ 5:08 AM

  3. My husband and his brother both lost their sense of smell in their 40”s. Both have Parkinson’s diagnoses. Both can draw clocks. My husband is 83 and his thought processes are definitely changing, though most people don’t detect that. Our son is early 50”s and I learned recently that his sense of smell has failed.
    I’m making no head way regarding nutrition or sleep. How does one communicate the need to pay attention. It’s frustrating to be written off!
    thanks for listening.
    Btw, Tana’s brownie recipe is amazing!

    Comment by Paige Hamernic — February 19, 2020 @ 5:24 AM

  4. How does a person determine if has Asperger’s Syndrome?

    Comment by Melvin Cunningham — February 19, 2020 @ 5:26 AM

  5. I got the smells, but not the next part.

    Comment by Pauline Tyer — February 19, 2020 @ 5:43 AM

  6. I have lost some sense of smell…..but from what I can it is from Lyme disease.

    Comment by John Szewczyk — February 19, 2020 @ 5:54 AM

  7. I’m losing my taste.

    Comment by Connie Minton — February 19, 2020 @ 7:03 AM

  8. I hope soon open a clinic here in Toronto Canada!

    Comment by Patricia — February 19, 2020 @ 7:15 AM

  9. In 1979 I suffered a serious TBI due to a car accident. That was 41 years ago. It rendered me unconscious for a period of time, and subsequent to waking from a coma, I suffered grand mall seizures. I had difficulty knowing what I was smelling, and became nearly catatonic when I was in the presence of tobacco smoke, and other chemical oders.

    I live in Naples, Florida. Where is the closest Amen Center where I could have a brain spect done? How much does it cost? Lastly, does insurance cover a brain spect?

    Thank you.
    Dee Schwartz

    Comment by Dee Schwartz — February 19, 2020 @ 7:17 AM

  10. Interesting article. How will the clock test relate to the new generation where many of them have not learned much about about an analog clock?

    Comment by kim — February 19, 2020 @ 7:38 AM

  11. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about 3,years ago. I don’t have a good sense of smell but my memory is pretty good for a woman of 75. I can draw a clock. I worry about dementia in my future. Because I have Parkinson’s does it make it more likely. If yes wha can I do if anything to stop it

    Comment by Kara morales — February 19, 2020 @ 11:14 AM

  12. Kim, even the old generation has lost the minute hand, etc. We had a group of therapists take that test as part of their training and they were confused about which was the minute and hour hand and how to show the correctly. Most of us older generation have also gone to digital watches and clocks. I am a pre-boomer, and I had to think about how it should look!

    Comment by Carol E. Becker — February 19, 2020 @ 11:31 AM

  13. My Dad at 92 with advanced dementia passed the clock test with flying colours. Clocks are an ‘old’ memory. He could still read the time now I believe while in the terminal stage and mostly bed ridden. That test needs updating. His short term memory was non existent. Develop some tests for that would be far more effective.

    Comment by Sue Brooks — February 19, 2020 @ 4:38 PM

  14. Why? Adding politics to medicine is only going to make it cost more, take more time, and be rationed. The cost is worth it if you are losing someone to the disease. Pay cash and get more for your investment, without the government and political overhead costs and insurance paperwork. The Political process is the slowest, least efficient way to accomplish what you want. Freedom is the solution.

    Comment by Sandra — February 20, 2020 @ 10:26 AM

  15. i agree completely with sue brooks’s comment. i am 66 and retired from teaching four years ago when i began to see little sings of forgetfulness. i went through two egregious days of testing. after reading much info on this site, i see the correlation of a childhood undiagnosed concussion as a possible cause. i still have a lump on my forehead from that incident. i have drawn a clock correctly for several doctors. i believe the biggest contributor is SUGAR. it is in so many foods. this includes fake sugar, such as aspartame. please: read labels and be careful of what you are putting into your body. good brain health to you all!

    Comment by marylou halupa — February 20, 2020 @ 11:06 AM

  16. I wondered the same thing about the smell test – my guess is that many in the younger generations have no idea what kerosene or paint thinner smell like. And what does soap smell like? Gardenias? Mint? Green Apple?

    Comment by Bonnie — February 20, 2020 @ 6:30 PM

  17. Interesting article. Do you have a clinic in Orlando, Florida or close to it? Thanks

    Comment by xiomara guerrero — February 21, 2020 @ 8:24 AM

  18. Hello Xiomara, thank you for reaching out. We currently have 8 clinic locations: We’d be happy to contact you directly about resources in Florida if you’re unable to travel to one of our clinics.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 21, 2020 @ 9:43 AM

  19. Turpentine and paint thinner can have a similar type of smell for most people unless you work with these substances on a regular basis.

    Comment by Linda — February 21, 2020 @ 2:06 PM

  20. Hello, I live in Orlando, Fl I’m wondering where is the closest Amen clinic is? I am interested in a spect scan and cost. Do you take insurance?t .
    Thank You,
    Christine Werlink

    Comment by christine Werlink — February 25, 2020 @ 1:31 PM

  21. More than 75% of them could not tell time, let alone draw a clock.

    Comment by Sherwood Brooks — February 26, 2020 @ 9:12 AM

  22. Hello Christine, thank you for reaching out. We currently have 8 clinic locations ( and the closest to you would be in Atlanta, GA ( We’d be happy to contact you directly to further discuss insurance, reimbursement, financing options and any other resources we can offer you. We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 26, 2020 @ 12:36 PM

  23. By the time someone is unable to draw a clock I believe the indication would be that brain disease has been present for a long time. It seems that the best thing for us to do is to educate, as is happening here, and to change the way we think about the brain. Until now, little value has been placed on protection of children’s brains as they grow up. And adults are often told that whatever memory issues there may be are caused by aging as if nothing can be done about it in the first place. Our exposure to toxic substances, including prescription drugs and anesthesia, substances in the work place and in the home, etc. are one of the causes of brain disability that we can control to a great extent if we are careful. In 2003 when I was 53 I sustained a bad concussion which affected my memory for over two years. I worked so hard to overcome the effects and for the most part I was able to do it. I still suffer from a kind of face blindness, however, and I believe that is going to be permanent as I am not in my 70’s.

    Comment by Grace — March 11, 2020 @ 3:20 AM

  24. Jesus was a healer and had love and compassion didnt charge anyone

    Comment by Teresa — March 11, 2020 @ 2:11 PM

  25. Telling time correctly is also my question. I’m not young, but don’t see many non digital clocks. Have to over think it to do the clock test.

    Comment by Phyllis Swanson — May 13, 2020 @ 6:21 AM

  26. Ive had my brain scanned @ Amen clinic. Was disappointed i was given a “child psychologist” to give my results. He had the personality of cardboard. He told me my brain had shrunk, we stared @ ea other. never heard of brain shrinkage, he explained it was due to my age (50+). 1 of the reasons i had a scan & tests was worrIed about my APOE3/4. My dad had 4/4 & passed @ 83 of AD, along with both Of his parents & their parents & so forth. I agree w/beth that long term memory drawing a clock is not the test we need 2 determine AD. I had my brother tested also @ Amen C. the idiot who chose the short straw told us that my brother had a split down the middle of his brain & had psychiatric problems which we knew b4 paying the $3k. Filled out questionnaire stating he was mentally ill. Still dont know if i have AD but struggle to converse, cant find words.I have to stop conversations im so frustrated. Drs need to b trained to diagnose AD @ more of them.Ppl want to know, how long must we suffer b4 this becomes better regulated? thru genetic tests my adult kids have Inherited my APOE4, my grandchildren also. Im 68 & waiting 4 a diagnosis n my 80’s which is the only way to get diagnosed unless person cannot answer anything, i know this 4 a fact. Those out there n a place of influence need to get on the ball bcause we have generations of families dying & willl continue 4 what the next 100 yrs b4 figured out? Does Amen C know if the start of tinnitus is connected 2 the start of AD? If u dont know why not after 100k scans? Plz get rid of the dead wood at your clinic & give us real answers. I never did on myself or my brother. Didnt need to pay 2 find out hes mentally ill, already knew. I still think AC does great work just not 4 me or my brother. Walked away dishearted & left wondering what might have been if treated better.

    Comment by K — June 3, 2020 @ 7:57 AM

  27. Hello K, thank you for reaching out and sharing this with us. We’d be happy to assist you with additional information on how we can rectify your visit and diagnosis received by one of our Amen Clinics staff/physicians. Please contact us so we may assist and provide guidance: Thank you again.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — June 15, 2020 @ 2:15 PM

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