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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2000 Sep;2(3):183-202.

The value of assessing cognitive function in drug development.

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  • 1Cognitive Drug Research Ltd, Reading, UK.


This paper reviews the value and utility of measuring cognitive function in the development of new medicines by reference to the most widely used automated system in clinical research. Evidence is presented from phase 1 to 3 of the nature and quality of the information that can be obtained by applying the Cognitive Drug Research computerized assessment system to ongoing clinical trials. Valuable evidence can be obtained even in the first trial in which a novel compound is administered to man. One application of such testing is to ensure that novel compounds are relatively free from cognition-impairing properties, particularly in relation to competitor products. Another is to ensure that unwanted interactions with alcohol and other medications do not occur, or, if they do, to put them in context. In many patient populations, cognitive dysfunction occurs as a result of the disease process, and newer medicines which can treat the symptoms of the disease without further impairing function can often reveal benefits as the disease-induced cognitive dysfunction is reduced. Another major application is to identify benefits for compounds designed to enhance cognitive function. Such effects can be sought in typical phase 1 trials, or a scopolamine model of the core deficits of Alzheimer's disease can be used to screen potential antidernentia drugs. Ultimately, of course, such effects can be demonstrated using properly validated and highly sensitive automated procedures in the target populations. The data presented demonstrate that the concept of independently assessing a variety of cognitive functions is crucial in helping differentiate drugs, types of dementia, and different illnesses. Such information offers a unique insight into how the alterations to various cognitive functions will manifest themselves in everyday behavior. This reveals a major limitation of scales that yield a single score, because such limited information does not permit anything but a quantitative interpretation; and the concept of "more" cognitive function or "less" is manifestly inappropriate for something as complex and diverse as the interplay between cognitive function and human behavior. Finally, the next generations of cognitive testing are described. Testing via the telephone has just been introduced and will have dramatic effects on the logistics of conducting cognitive testing in large patient trials. Testing via the Internet is not far off either, and will come fully into play as the proportion of homes connected to the Internet increases in Europe and North America. There are no sound reasons for not wishing to include cognitive function testing in the development protocol of any novel medicine.


Cognitive Drug Research computerized assessment system; attention; computerized cognitive function assessment; long-term memory; working memory

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