BrainCheck – a very brief tool to detect incipient cognitive decline: optimized case-finding combining patient- and informant-based data.

Ehrensperger MM, Taylor KI, Berres M, Foldi NS, Dellenbach M, Bopp I, Gold G, von Gunten A, Inglin D, Müri R, Rüegger B, Kressig RW, Monsch AU. BrainCheck – a very brief tool to detect incipient cognitive decline: optimized case-finding combining patient- and informant-based data. Alzheimer's Research & Therapy 2014;6: 69.

Download PDF

Braincheck was developed by Andreas U. Monsch, PhD and Michael Ehrensperger, PhD


Optimal identification of subtle cognitive impairment in the primary care setting requires a very brief tool combining (a) patients’ subjective impairments, (b) cognitive testing, and (c) information from informants. The present study developed a new, very quick and easily administered case-finding tool combining these assessments (‘BrainCheck’) and tested the feasibility and validity of this instrument in two independent studies.


We developed a case-finding tool comprised of patient-directed (a) questions about memory and depression and (b) clock drawing, and (c) the informant-directed 7-item version of the Informant Questionnaire on Cognitive Decline in the Elderly (IQCODE). Feasibility study: 52 general practitioners rated the feasibility and acceptance of the patient-directed tool. Validation study: An independent group of 288 Memory Clinic patients (mean ± SD age = 76.6 ± 7.9, education = 12.0 ± 2.6; 53.8% female) with diagnoses of mild cognitive impairment (n = 80), probable Alzheimer's disease (n = 185), or major depression (n = 23) and 126 demographically matched, cognitively healthy volunteer participants (age = 75.2 ± 8.8, education = 12.5 ± 2.7; 40% female) partook. All patient and healthy control participants were administered the patient-directed tool, and informants of 113 patient and 70 healthy control participants completed the very short IQCODE.


Feasibility study: General practitioners rated the patient-directed tool as highly feasible and acceptable. Validation study: A Classification and Regression Tree analysis generated an algorithm to categorize patient-directed data which resulted in a correct classification rate (CCR) of 81.2% (sensitivity = 83.0%, specificity = 79.4%). Critically, the CCR of the combined patient- and informant-directed instruments (BrainCheck) reached nearly 90% (that is 89.4%; sensitivity = 97.4%, specificity = 81.6%).


A new and very brief instrument for general practitioners, ‘BrainCheck’, combined three sources of information deemed critical for effective case-finding (that is, patients’ subjective impairments, cognitive testing, informant information) and resulted in a nearly 90% CCR. Thus, it provides a very efficient and valid tool to aid general practitioners in deciding whether patients with suspected cognitive impairments should be further evaluated or not (‘watchful waiting’).

Sensitivity Specifity Discriminatory power
(correct classifiction)
3 Questions plus
Clock drawing test
85,8 % 74,3 % 79,9 %
Informant questions 81,4 % 75,7 % 78,6 %
BrainCheck 97,4 % 81,6 % 89,4 %

Download PDF