Mental status exam; Neurocognitive testing; Dementia-mental status testing
Mental status testing is done to check a person's thinking ability and to determine if any problems are getting better or worse. It is also called neurocognitive testing.
A health care provider will ask a number of questions. The test can be done in the home, in an office, nursing home, or hospital. Sometimes, a psychologist with special training will do more detailed tests.
Common tests used are the:
Mental status testing looks at the following factors:
The provider will check your physical appearance, including:
The provider will ask questions such as:
Attention span may be tested earlier, because this basic skill can influence the rest of the tests.
The provider will check:
You may be asked to do the following:
RECENT AND PAST MEMORY
The provider will ask questions related to recent people, places, and events in your life or in the world.
You may be shown 3 items and asked to say what they are, and then recall them after 5 minutes.
The provider will ask about your childhood, school, or events that occurred earlier in life.
The provider will determine if you can express your ideas clearly. The provider will note if you repeat yourself or repeat what the provider says. The provider will also find out if you have trouble expressing or understanding (aphasia).
The provider will point to everyday items in the room and ask you to name them. Or you may be asked to name less common items.
You may be asked to say as many words as possible in one minute that:
You may be asked to read or write a sentence.
JUDGMENT AND INTELLIGENCE
This part of the test looks at how well you solve a problem or situation. You may be asked questions such as:
Some tests that screen for language problems do not account for people who do not read or write. If you know that the person being tested cannot read or write, tell the provider before the test.
If your child is having the test, it is important to help them understand the reason for the test.
Most tests are divided into sections, each with its own score. The results help show which part of someone's thinking and memory may be affected.
A number of health conditions can affect mental status. The provider will discuss these with you. An abnormal mental status test alone does not diagnose the cause. However, doing poorly on such tests can be due to medical illness, brain disease such as dementia, Parkinson disease, or to mental illness. Even when the cause is known, tests may be repeated over time to see if treatment is working.
Beresin EV, Gordon C. The psychiatric interview. In: Stern TA, Fava M, Wilens TE, Rosenbaum JF, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 2.
Paulsen JS, Gehl C. Neuropsychology. In: Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, Newman NJ, eds. Bradley's and Daroff’s Neurology in Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 44.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 11/9/2021
Reviewed By: Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Department of Neurology, Cooper Medical School at Rowan University, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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