A more sensitive screening test for dementia
If you suspect that your older adult could be showing signs of cognitive impairment and not just having moments of normal forgetfulness, the first step is to visit their primary doctor for a full check-up.
However, there’s a more sensitive, but less commonly used, screening test called the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA).
We explain how the MoCA test works, when it’s used, and how it’s similar to and different from the Mini Mental Status Exam (MMSE).
How the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) works
The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) is a one page, 30 point test that takes about 10 minutes.
The MoCA usually tests these cognitive areas:
- Ability to process and understand visual information about where objects are
- Executive functions – ability to manage cognitive processes
- Short-term memory recall
- Working memory
- Awareness of time and place
How are the MoCA and MMSE different?
The MoCA looks similar to the MMSE, but the MoCA tests a variety of different cognitive functions and the MMSE focuses mostly on memory and recall.
The MoCA is generally better at detecting mild impairment and early Alzheimer’s disease because it’s a more sensitive test and is more challenging.
So, if a doctor sees a patient who is questioning their mental functioning, they might give the MoCA test.
But if a patient comes in and is clearly cognitively impaired, a very sensitive test wouldn’t be as necessary since the issues are more obvious.
The MoCA has also been shown to be a better screening tool for conditions like:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Vascular dementia
- Traumatic brain injury (often from falls)
- Huntington’s disease
- Brain tumors
- Multiple sclerosis
How are the MoCA and MMSE similar?
Even though these are good screening tools for cognitive impairments, neither test was designed to diagnose cognitive conditions.
They’re both initial screening tests that are used to determine whether further cognitive testing is needed.
They also can’t be used to distinguish between conditions.
Recommended for you:
- SAGE Test: 15 Minute At-Home Test for Alzheimer’s
- The Mini Mental Status Exam: A Dementia Screening Tool
- Testing for Dementia: Why the Mini Mental Status Exam Isn’t Enough for Diagnosis
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