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Science Ticker

A roundup of research and breaking news

Science News Staff

Science Ticker


Science Ticker

Publicity over a memory test Trump took could skew its results

Familiarity with the exam may help people score better, masking early dementia symptoms

President Donald Trump

PUT TO THE TEST  President Donald Trump and White House physician Ronny Jackson shake hands after Trump’s annual physical, which included a test that screens for early signs of dementia.

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When President Donald Trump took a mental test as part of his physical in January, the results called attention to far more than his fitness for office. (He passed with a perfect score, according to his physician.) It put a test commonly used to catch early signs of dementia in the spotlight. That publicity could lead to missed diagnoses, researchers warn July 16 in JAMA Neurology.

Google searches of the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, a 10-minute screening test consisting of 30 questions, spiked in the week after news coverage of Trump’s physical. Of 190 news articles about his performance identified by the researchers, 53.7 percent included some or all of the test’s questions and answers. And 17 percent encouraged readers to see how their mental abilities stacked up against the president’s.

That might make it more difficult for clinicians to screen patients for early signs of dementia. Taking the test once increases your score the next time you take it, a phenomenon called a learning effect. The study didn’t track how many readers took the memory test. But for those who did, researchers say, the learning effect could artificially inflate some patients’ scores and make it harder for doctors to pick up on the memory symptoms linked to Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Most of the news articles quoted questions from one specific version of the test, so the researchers suggest that doctors should administer alternate versions to prevent skewed results.

Science & Society

Most Americans think funding science pays off

By Emily DeMarco 3:18pm, July 5, 2018
About 80 percent of U.S. adults say that federal spending on scientific and medical research provides value in the long run, a new survey finds.
Genetics,, Anthropology,, Animals

North America’s earliest dogs came from Siberia

By Bruce Bower 2:12pm, July 5, 2018
North America’s first dogs have few descendants alive today, a study of ancient DNA suggests.
Astronomy,, Planetary Science,, Technology

Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft arrives at the asteroid Ryugu

By Maria Temming 2:58pm, June 27, 2018
The Hayabusa2 spacecraft says “hello” to near-Earth asteroid Ryugu.
Astronomy

‘Oumuamua may be a comet, not an asteroid

By Emily Conover 1:00pm, June 27, 2018
The solar system’s first known interstellar visitor doesn’t appear to be the asteroid that scientists thought it was.
Neuroscience,, Animals

How domestication changed rabbits’ brains

By Tina Hesman Saey 3:00pm, June 25, 2018
The fear centers of the brain were altered as humans tamed rabbits.
Neuroscience,, Psychology,, Science & Society

Splitting families may end, but migrant kids’ trauma needs to be studied

By Laura Sanders 5:39pm, June 20, 2018
The long-term effects of separating children from their parents at the U.S. border need to be studied, scientists say.
Physics

The Large Hadron Collider is getting an upgrade

By Emily Conover 2:01pm, June 15, 2018
Revamping the accelerator’s equipment will increase the rate of proton collisions.
Planetary Science

Opportunity rover waits out a huge dust storm on Mars

By Lisa Grossman 5:56pm, June 11, 2018
NASA’s Opportunity rover is in low-power mode to preserve battery life while a vast dust storm blankets part of the Red Planet.
Planetary Science

New Horizons wakes up to begin Kuiper Belt exploration

By Lisa Grossman 10:51am, June 5, 2018
The New Horizons spacecraft just woke up to get ready for its New Year’s Day flyby of the distant space rock Ultima Thule.
Exoplanets,, Astronomy

Take a virtual trip to an alien world

By Lisa Grossman 10:00am, June 4, 2018
NASA’s Exoplanet Travel Bureau website lets you view what alien landscapes might look like.
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