Mild Cognitive Impairment Tests and Detecting Dementia

Mild Cognitive Impairment Tests and Detecting Dementia

September 14, 2020

Written by Michelle Jonna

Fact checked by The Brain Blog Team

Mild Cognitive Impairment Tests and Detecting Dementia

A mild cognitive impairment (MCI) test is a good place to start when you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of what could be early dementia or other cognition concerns.

If you’ve noticed that your loved one has difficulty remembering names and appointments, can’t recall meeting people, or has difficulty with complex tasks like cooking or paying bills, you might want to consider having them take a mild cognitive impairment test. Memory and cognition problems can be caused by a variety of things, including medications, illnesses, a brain disorder, or the early stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. As soon as symptoms appear, it’s best to address your concerns with a medical professional.

What is Mild Cognitive Impairment? 

Clinicians diagnose mild cognitive impairment after considering the following symptoms and conditions:

  • Difficulty with memory, planning, following instructions and making complex decisions 
  • Family members or friends express concern about the individual’s memory and other mental difficulties 
  • An MCI test shows impairment, based on a comparison with a typical person at the same age and education level  
  • The symptoms are mild, not at the level of those with more severe dementia or Alzheimer’s disease 

According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s not one specific test that’s used to determine if someone is suffering from mild cognitive impairment. If you’re concerned about your own or a loved one’s cognition, it’s best to consult a neurologist or gerontologist to determine the causes and to run the appropriate medical tests to determine exactly what’s happening and how it should be treated.

To learn more, read the following Brain Blog article: "Concerned About Mild Cognitive Impairment?"

Mild Cognitive Impairment Tests

Alzheimer’s and dementia specialists have distinguished several types of tests that can be used to discern MC from more severe forms of dementia and brain diseases. These MCI tests include the Short Test of Mental Status (STMS), the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA), the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam (SAGE). 

The Short Test of Mental Status (STMS) 

The Short Test of Mental Status (STMS), authored by E. Kokmen, is made up of eight questions, and tests an individual’s “orientation, immediate recall, arithmetic, abstraction, construction, information and delayed (approximately 3 minute) recall.” The test takes about five minutes to administer and can be done with the patient by a clinician, a social worker or even a family member. It’s very basic in nature, with simple arithmetic, memorization of words and phrases, and drawings of geometric shapes and a clock displaying a specific time. 

The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA)

The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) is not considered to be diagnostic test for mild cognitive impairment, though it’s a good predictor of someone’s likelihood of developing mild cognitive impairment, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other related brain ailments. During this test, the person is asked about the day, date and location of their visit; asked to repeat a word or series of words after a time; connect numbered docs and draw shapes. They are also asked to repeat simple word sequences, both backwards and forwards, and draw a clock, among other basic tasks. The MoCa has a 94% accuracy rate for detecting whether someone currently has MCI or dementia. 

The Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE)

The Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) is a 30-point test that’s quick and easy to perform, and can be used to monitor a patient’s cognition to determine if it deteriorates over time. However, experts claim that it is discriminatory against people who are visually impaired, has not been shown to accurately detect early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and may be biased toward people with higher levels of education.

In the MMS, the person taking the test is asked to recall words, do basic math, write a sentence, read and follow a command that is written down, and other similar tasks. Like the other tests listed in this article, it can be easily found and downloaded from the internet.

The SAGE Test 

The Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam (SAGE) is a mild cognitive impairment test that an individual can take on their own in about 10 or 15 minutes. The person taking the SAGE test then shares the finished assessment to his doctor for scoring and evaluation. It’s one of the more popular assessments that is used by clinicians, with a very low false positive rate of 5%. It’s considered by experts to be more accurate than many other mild cognitive impairments tests. 

What Next?  What to Do After Taking a Mild Cognitive Impairment Test

If you or a loved one are struggling with a poor memory, difficulty with complex tasks or other signs of declining cognitive abilities, taking a Mild Cognitive Impairment Test can make it easier to determine whether it’s time to consult a medical professional. You should also know there are many available treatment options and nutritional supplements available for mild cognitive impairment and dementia. For example, recent clinical research confirmed that cognitive performance can be improved in individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment following supplementation with Omega-3s, Carotenoids and Vitamin E, a nutritional formulation commercially known as Memory Health®.  You can read the results behind this double-blind placebo study on MDPI.  

This is the first study to identify trends in improved cognitive performance in individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) following nutritional supplementation. The patients with MCI receiving the active intervention [Memory Health® supplement] exhibited improvement in episodic memory and global cognition, while the placebo group remained unchanged or worsened for all measurements.

To learn more about supplements for mild cognitive impairment, dementia and Alzheimer's disease, read the following Brain Blog articles:

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