Software tool for accurate detection and monitoring of Alzheimer’s disease

The Edinburgh Temporary Binding Assessment (ETBA) is a test for quick and accurate assessment of cognitive impairment, which is sensitive and specific for Alzheimer’s Disease, and suitable for use in primary care and clinical trials.

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Diagnostic tool for detecting Alzheimer’s Disease in primary care

Initial selection of clinical trial participants, and monitoring cognitive function over time to assess efficacy of clinical interventions for AD


Preliminary proof of concept with prototype app


Edinburgh Temporary Binding Assessment Copyright


Licensing and/or collaborative research


Memory impairment is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) but also occurs in healthy ageing and chronic depression, making it challenging to detect and monitor AD progression. Existing cognitive tests used within primary care are unreliable for follow-up testing and only identify cognitive impairment, not the underlying disease. There is an urgent need for a reliable, cost-effective, simple and easily administered memory test that can distinguish AD from other disorders.


Edinburgh researchers have developed the Edinburgh Temporary Binding Assessment (ETBA), which takes advantage of their research findings which show that people in the early stages of AD have a particular difficulty in remembering novel combinations of colours and shapes over short periods of time, known as ‘temporary feature binding’. Healthy older people and people with depression do not have a particular problem with performing this test.

The computer programme assesses the ability of people to undertake temporary feature binding. Individuals are presented with a set of abstract shapes, a set of specific colour hues, and combinations of shapes and colours, following a specific detailed protocol. Results show the test accurately detects cognitive impairments associated specifically with AD, but not with other dementias, chronic depression, or healthy ageing. In patients who meet diagnostic criteria for AD, the test achieved 100% specificity and 86% sensitivity.


  • Readily applicable in a primary care setting
  • Broadly applicable, as not reliant on literacy or language
  • Ideal for monitoring the cognitive function of participants during clinical trials


Neuropsychologia 50: 833-840. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.01.018

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