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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.

Pollution,, Ecosystems

Treating roads with oil and gas wastewater may spread harmful pollution

By Laurel Hamers 5:49pm, May 30, 2018
When spread on roads, wastewater from oil and gas production can leach radium and other contaminants into the environment, a new study finds.
Health

Ebola vaccinations begin in Congo

By Helen Thompson 5:58pm, May 21, 2018
A vaccination campaign is up and running to fight the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Congo. It’s the first of its kind.
Planetary Science

China is set to launch a satellite to support a future lunar rover

By Lisa Grossman 10:00am, May 20, 2018
China is set to launch a satellite to support a future lunar rover that will make the first-ever visit to the farside of the moon.
Physics

Despite a new measurement, the neutron’s lifetime is still puzzling

By Emily Conover 5:50pm, May 9, 2018
Two techniques for gauging the subatomic particle’s longevity disagree.
Anthropology

Anthropologists in Peru have unearthed the largest known child sacrifice

By Bruce Bower 5:00pm, April 26, 2018
The largest known mass sacrifice of children occurred around 550 years ago in the Chimú empire in Peru.
Quantum Physics

Split atom clouds get entangled in quantum tests

By Emily Conover 2:00pm, April 26, 2018
Scientists create quantum links between clouds consisting of thousands of atoms.
Genetics,, Animals

Cicadas on different schedules can hybridize

By Helen Thompson 5:00pm, April 20, 2018
A new genetic study suggests that cicadas that emerge every 17 years have swapped genetic material with those that emerge every 13 years.
Microbes,, Pollution

This plastic-gobbling enzyme just got an upgrade

By Laurel Hamers 7:00am, April 19, 2018
Scientists tweaked a bacterial enzyme and made it more efficient in breaking down plastics found in polyester and plastic bottles.
Exoplanets

NASA’s TESS spacecraft launches to begin its exoplanet search

By Lisa Grossman 7:36pm, April 18, 2018
After reaching its orbit in about two months, the telescope will start scanning nearby stars telltale dips in light that signal a passing planet.
Astronomy

Delayed launch of NASA’s next exoplanet hunter is now set for tonight

By Lisa Grossman 2:53pm, April 16, 2018
NASA’s next exoplanet hunter, TESS, launches today to seek planets in 85 percent of the sky.
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