Memory tests for dementia

What are Cognitive or Memory tests?

Cognitive or memory tests are used as a step in the process of diagnosing dementia. For more information on the other stages of the diagnostic process click here.

There are a number of tests which can be conducted to assess cognition. Each test has its advantages and disadvantages including:

  • The time taken to conduct the test.
  • Cost, as some tests incur a fee.
  • The focus of the test, so for example, those which focus on testing memory are less effective for identifying dementia with Lewy bodies or frontotemporal dementia as memory is less affected in the earlier stages.

Below is a summary of the main tests which are used by GPs and specialists to help diagnosis dementia.

General Practitioner Assessment of Cognition (GPCOG)

  • The test is used by GPs and takes less than 5 minutes. In addition a carer’s interview is conducted, which takes a couple of minutes.
  • It includes questions on recall (being able to remember information previously given), time orientation, clock drawing and current affairs.
  • And checks for orientation, memory, language, visuospatial skills, executive function and other daily living functions.

Abbreviated Mental Test (AMT)

  • The test is used by GPs and takes around 5 minutes.
  • It includes questions on recall, time and year orientation, ability to remember age and year of birth, general questions about world affairs, ability to identify people and a count backwards from 20 to 1.
  • And checks for orientation, memory and attention.

Mini-Cog

  • The test is used by GPs and takes between 2-4 minutes.
  • It includes a 3 item word memory and clock drawing.
  • And checks for memory, visuospatial skills and executive function.

Mini–Mental State Examination (MMSE)

  • The test takes around 10 minutes to complete. The test isn’t as effective in identifying dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia as the main focus of the test is memory which is less affected in the earlier stages.
  • It includes recall, day/year orientation, 3 item word memory, serial 7 subtraction and naming familiar objects.
  • And checks for orientation, memory, language, visuospatial skills and attention.

Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MOCA)

  • The test takes around 10 minutes and is useful for monitoring people with mild cognitive impairment and detecting Parkinson’s disease dementia.
  • It includes recall, day/year orientation, clock drawing, naming familiar objects, serial 7 subtraction starting at 100.
  • And checks for orientation, memory, language, visuospatial skills, attention and executive function.

Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination (ACE)

  • The test is used in a more specialised setting and takes between 10-20 minutes.
  • It covers a number of areas including recall, day/year orientation, general questions about world affairs, drawing, recognising familiar objects and serial 7 subtraction starting at 100
  • And checks for memory, orientation, language and fluency, attention, visuospatial skills and executive function.

The 6-item Cognitive Impairment Test (6CIT)

  • The test takes less than 5 minutes to complete and is good for detecting mild dementia.
  • It covers recall, time and date orientation, count backwards from 20, and months of the year in reverse.
  • And checks for orientation, memory and attention.

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