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Computerized test could detect driver fitness

Research at UTSC could result in a simple computerized test that will help aging drivers determine if it’s time to stop driving.

“We’re trying to screen people with cognitive deficits who may be at risk operating a motor vehicle,” says Konstantine Zakzanis, a UTSC associate professor of psychology. “If we can show the measures are valid and reliable it could provide a great service.”

Although many people continue to be good drivers as they age, they can also experience cognitive decline due to Alzheimer’s Disease, medications, or other health-related issues. Sometimes the decline isn’t apparent until there’s a traffic accident.

Zakzanis is developing a 15-minute computerized test called BrainScreen that measures different aspects of cognitive function – for instance, by asking people to remember words for a few minutes, or to correctly match symbols with one another.

Zakzanis says that the program draws on existing, well-validated cognitive tests, but puts them in a package that allows people to assess themselves. When the test is over, test-takers are given a score of green, yellow or red. Green means everything is fine, yellow means that the test-taker might want to talk with a doctor, and red means that there could be serious problems.

The self-assessment will help people who are concerned about their driving abilities, and could also give family members a way to bring up the subject with an aging relative, Zakzanis says.

Zakzanis developed the test for the London-based company Hemisphere Centre for Mental Health and Wellness. He’s in the process of validating it, and it should be available soon.

 




© University of Toronto Scarborough