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Find the Camel Alzheimer’s Test: A Social Media Myth Busted

The Find the Camel Alzheimer’s test went viral on social media, but is far from being a clinically approved technique for confirming neurological dementia. Join Flo in exploring Alzheimer’s camel test alternatives that better target the symptoms of this degenerative disease.

Alzheimer’s is a complex disorder ‒ the diagnosis of which requires a series of neurological and physical examinations, as well as lab work. Simply searching for an image of a hidden camel is not enough to predict your long-term chances of developing Alzheimer’s. And yet, millions of social media users believe the Alzheimer’s camel test to be an accurate reflection of their susceptibility.

This is not to say that standardized testing for Alzheimer’s doesn’t rely on images. In fact, a visual exam known as the Camel and Cactus Test evaluates patients’ semantic association. But it’s definitely not the same as the Alzheimer’s camel test recently circulating online. The ability to assess conceptual memory is crucial to diagnosing Alzheimer’s, and the Camel and Cactus Test is just one of several neuropsychologically-based components.

Unlike the Find the Camel Alzheimer’s test, health care providers adhere to a series of specific guidelines, starting with an evaluation of overall state of health. They’ll review drug prescriptions and past medical issues, as well as family history. They’ll ask about any warning signs or changes in behavior and personality, not to mention difficulties performing the activities of daily living. 

At this point, the provider may order additional tests to rule out the existence of other, underlying conditions, such as Parkinson’s or a brain tumor. Brain imaging, including MRIs, CT, and PET scans are usually the methods of choice. Blood tests can also eliminate variables like a vitamin B12 deficiency or problems with thyroid function. 

Clearly, this extensive battery of Alzheimer’s exams bears absolutely no resemblance to the Find the Camel Alzheimer’s test that popped up on social media.

Oftentimes, it takes someone close to you to notice the warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Symptoms like being generally forgetful, and struggling with short-term memory recall or with organizing your thoughts tend to appear first. Note that it’s a progressive disorder that gradually reveals itself over the course of many years.

While it affects everyone slightly differently, there are a few common developments that the Alzheimer’s camel test won’t reveal:

  • Repetition of phrases and questions
  • Forgetting conversations, appointments, or events
  • Always losing things and finding them in strange places
  • Getting lost and not recognizing the surroundings
  • Failing to remember people’s names or familiar items
  • Speech problems, loss of words, and poor thinking skills
  • Impaired decision-making and irrational actions
  • An inability to get up and go or to perform routine tasks
  • Trouble managing finances and other affairs
  • Anxiety and bouts of aggression
  • Mood and behavioral changes

If you took the Find the Camel Alzheimer’s test online and feel concerned about memory loss or cognitive function, make an appointment with your provider. They can perform a full assessment, including a complete physical exam, as well as a neurological and mental status exam. This process excludes other potential causes and factors, while also determining the stage of dementia the patient may be in. Initial Alzheimer’s testing focuses on:

  • Concentration skills
  • Short-term and long-term memory
  • Communication and coherence
  • Ability to complete tasks
  • Planning and execution
  • Visual/spatial awareness

They’re obviously far more detailed than the Alzheimer’s camel test and are designed to zero in on cognitive issues or any apparent decline in memory. Furthermore, language skills and word recall, along with visual and spatial awareness, will be evaluated. As the disorder advances, it’s typical for patients to experience feelings of confusion and to lose their bearings. That’s because Alzheimer’s muddles a person’s comprehension of physical distance, and how to get from point A to point B. Keep in mind that individual standardized testing is also available through the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) and the Saint Louis University Mental Status (SLUMS) protocols. 

After an official diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, follow-up appointments will be needed to monitor disease progression and the presence of additional neuropsychiatric symptoms. Alternative explanations for symptoms (e.g., Parkinson’s disease, brain hemorrhages, and strokes) must be ruled out. Lastly, an Alzheimer’s peanut butter test is sometimes used to gauge the patient’s sense of smell. These are all preferable approaches to the Find the Camel Alzheimer’s test, which has no valid scientific basis.

The Alzheimer’s camel test fails to recognize that cognitive function is affected by countless factors. As such, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) recommends conducting additional laboratory tests like those measuring cobalamin (or B12) levels and thyroid activity. Your provider might also want to formally exclude hematologic, liver, or autoimmune disorders, infectious diseases, and whether there’s a shortage of vitamin D.

As mentioned, brain imaging is helpful for ruling out strokes, trauma, or tumors, while MRIs and CTs may reveal cortical and/or cerebral atrophy. New imaging technology is currently in development that could identify specific alterations to the brain’s structure with the onset of Alzheimer’s.

It’s important not to be alarmed if you fail the Find the Camel Alzheimer’s test circulating on social media. In reality, it takes extensive clinical testing by trained medical professionals to confirm a diagnosis of neurological dementia. If you prefer, consider booking an appointment with your primary provider to follow up.

Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry: Semantic Memory. 2001;70:149-156.

National Institute on Aging (NIA), National Institutes of Health: Signs of Alzheimer’s.

Medscape: Alzheimer Disease Physical Examination; May 9, 2019.

Medscape: Alzheimer’s Disease Workup; May 9, 2019.

Mayo Clinic: Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis; Dec 8, 2018.

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