A New Naming Test

Sanne Franzen is a clinician-researcher in the Alzheimer Center and Department of Neurology of the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Together with colleagues, she works towards a fairer diagnosis and care for individuals with a diverse background as part of a multicultural memory clinic that opened in 2015.

As a clinician, Sanne feels that it is her responsibility to provide optimal services for all patients, regardless of personal characteristics, level of education, country of origin, ethnicity, or language proficiency. Together with partners in the Netherlands (European Consortium on Cross-Cultural Neuropsychology) and Turkey (Hacettepe Hospital, Ankara), she has developed a tool to diagnose dementia in diverse populations. The tool is a naming test.

So, why a naming test? Many individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease will at some point start to experience difficulties finding specific words in everyday conversations. They may pause more frequently, describe the word they are trying to find, or use gestures or similar words to make themselves understood.

During a neuropsychological assessment, these difficulties are typically assessed by showing patients drawings and asking them to name the illustrated object. Traditional naming tests, such as the commonly used Boston Naming Test, are developed in the English-speaking world and are not necessarily suitable for all patients. For example, specific items like the igloo, stilts or a pretzel are not easily recognized by individuals from across the globe. Furthermore, the black-and-white line drawings used can be challenging to name for individuals with limited education. Thus, it is often unclear if the low scores obtained by patients with a diverse background on these tests are caused by dementia or by unfamiliarity with the items listed or limited formal education.

As part of the nationwide Dutch TULIPA study, Sanne and colleagues have developed a new naming test to assess naming impairment in culturally, educationally, and linguistically diverse populations in Europe. This new test, the Naming Assessment in Multicultural Europe (NAME) includes 60 colored photographs of objects, natural phenomena and animals, occupations, and actions that are familiar to many individuals.

This test was studied in healthy individuals living in the community and patients visiting memory clinics in the Netherlands and Turkey. The results indicate that NAME can accurately discriminate individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or mixed Alzheimer’s/vascular dementia from other patients and controls. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease obtained lower scores than controls on most of NAME’s items (48/60). This first study confirms the potential of this new test.

NAME will soon become available to researchers and clinicians; please contact the project group at migrantenpoli@erasmusmc.nl to receive updates on how to obtain the test!