Cognitive Assessment at Carolina Healthspan Institute
I recently visited a local institute that participated in a groundbreaking study showing the first examples of reversal of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease.
The study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease & Parkinsonism, showed that cognitive decline was reduced in 100 patients around the world following a similar protocol.
Dr. Dale Bredesen, the lead author of the paper, has written a book called The End of Alzheimer's in which he discusses this protocol. Although I'm relatively young and haven't noticed any obvious signs of cognitive issues I decided to get myself tested.
Before the appointment
The local institute I visited is called the Carolina HealthSpan Institute, a functional medicine practice founded in Charlotte, NC in 2004. Their practice has been involved in cutting-edge research, including the study that showed a reversal of cognitive decline.
The institute has put together its own program called the ReConnect Program, which is based on the framework and fundamentals of the Bredesen Protocol. They have made a few variations based on their clinical experience.
A ReConnect risk assessment of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease cost roughly $1,000.
First, there were five detailed questionnaires that were sent out to be completed. These included:
- Bio-toxin symptoms
- Lifestyle assessment
- Alzheimer's Disease symptoms
- General medical symptoms
- Patient goals
Next was blood work. In total there were 17 different tests checking important markers for heart disease, hormones, thyroid, vitamins, prostate cancer, blood, liver, kidney, and electrolytes. This was all taken in one lab appointment that took less than half an hour.
If purchased individually they would be roughly $800, but doctor's offices get steep discounts.
During the appointment
After the questionnaires and blood work was a 2-hour appointment. In that appointment we went through various additional tests:
- Verbal test – What my goals were, basic IQ test, and reasoning skills.
- Visual Contrast Test (VCS test) – Tests for exposure to bio-toxins.
- CNS Vital Signs – This was the main part of the exam. It tested speed, memory, focus, and attention. Some parts reminded me of an IQ test.
- Body weight, fat, and composition – They had a machine that you stood on to test these.
- Nervous system exam with a doctor – Test of obvious signs of disease, reflexes, walking, and eye movement.
Follow-up with doctor
A week later I met with Dr. Kathleen Russo, MD. We sat down and talked for an hour about the results, and any treatments she suggested.
The CNS Vital Signs had an interesting report with scores on cognition types and my percentile among them. As Dr. Russo noted, a low score in one domain isn't cause for alarm and they are looking for trends.
For reaction time, the domain I scored low average in, the results can be affected by the strategy of the person taking the test. I likely leaned toward accuracy over speed and waited longer to respond whereas other people may have responded sooner.
Overall, as a result of all the testing performed I learned I had a normal cognition, Vitamin D deficiency, and "normal" but low range testosterone levels that could be optimized with hormone replacement therapy.
This was my first time seeing a functional medicine doctor and I came away from Carolina Healthspan Institute impressed. These are highly qualified medical doctors who are going beyond the typical level of care in a doctor's office.
To save money I probably could have ordered the tests myself, but I appreciate the well-designed program they've put together.