I originally started writing today to review how slowly the symptoms of my Alzheimer’s have progressed and what that’s meant for me. But after reviewing where I thought I was, I decided to take an Internet IQ test to get another perspective.
In my review, it was clear that some of my symptoms haven’t progressed at all since my diagnosis last September. I haven’t gotten lost again. I actually notice improvements in my relationships. I’m still losing lots of things, but it’s not much worse than before. My lecture in Kansas City last week went well.
Some things have gotten worse. The confusion and blank-out during the keys-at-the-front-door incident were new. I’ m less able to do arithmetic in my head, reconcile the checkbook or handle complicated data.
Yes, there are some changes, but not as many as I expected by now.
But then I took that Internet IQ test. Surprised by the results, I took another, just to check.
(Now, before anybody comments on how unreliable Internet IQ tests are, I know, I know. But I’m not looking for a precise score, and I don’t need the test to be as comprehensive as a more sophisticated exam. And although the items in each of the two tests were quite dissimilar, statistically the results were the same in each test.)
What was more revealing to me than the final numbers, actually, was my difficulty in completing some of the tasks in the tests. I’ve always been good at the kinds of abstract tasks that were on the tests. This time, however, I was astonished at what I could no longer do.
I wasn’t surprised, of course, that my memory was shot.
But I was surprised at my limited ability to recognize the logic in the progression of patterns. This is a task I’ve always been good at. As an example, there will be 3 different patterns in each of three rows. The first row might have 1 circle in the first box, 2 circles in the second box and 3 in the third. The next row has one square in the first box, 2 squares in the second and 3 squares in the third. The third row has 1 triangle in the first box, 2 triangles in the second and the task is to pick from a group of ten choices what comes next, in this case 3 triangles. The patterns become progressively more difficult, of course, but—very early on—I just couldn’t recognize them. Wow! I thought, that’s a big change.
I had a similar problem with a task in which I was instructed to pick out which of the ten digits was missing from a row of the other nine digits and to pick out from a second row of letters, which letter was repeated. Those should be easy, quick tasks, but I was slow … really slow.
My IQ used to be something over 140, not “genius” but “superior.” But I was shocked that, according to the two Internet tests, it’s now slid to about 100, normal. While there’s something to be said for finally being normal, sliding from the 99th percentile to the 50th a big drop. This formal testing makes it clear that I’m more cognitively impaired than I thought
As has been usual during this whole illness, however, I feel a strange equanimity. What did I expect? To get smarter? For whatever reason, the decline just doesn’t bother me. What’s more curious to me, however, is that I don’t notice any change in my experience of my self. Surely that experience changes at some point in this disease. But it hasn’t yet.
More on that in the next post.