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Cognitive Assessments for Alzheimer’s Disease Detection

Cognitive assessments are used for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease in those who exhibit signs and symptoms. They are usually combined with other testing and diagnostic measures, such as brain imaging, blood tests and various physical and neurological exams, to more accurately make a diagnosis.

These assessments are essential for diagnosing memory and thinking problems, including Alzheimer’s disease, and monitoring disease progression and evaluating treatments. At Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and Banner Sun Health Research Institute, our dynamic multidisciplinary team of neuropsychologists and dementia specialists are the gold standard for evaluating cognitive function and providing an accurate and early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia diseases. If you or your loved one is concerned about recent memory or behavioral changes, don’t ignore these potential symptoms. Make an appointment with your doctor today.

What Cognitive Assessments Are Used to Diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease?

There is no single assessment that is considered to provide the best tool in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease. A doctor may use a combination of tests and assessments to make an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The following cognitive assessments are validated and can be administered in ten minutes or less:

  • Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE): This reliable test is widely used in detecting Alzheimer’s disease and takes about 10 minutes to complete. The test measures various factors of cognition, including the ability to remember words, orientation, calculation, attention, language skills and visual construction.
  • Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA): This simple, brief test quickly helps specialists determine if there is a deficiency in multiple cognitive domains and if additional testing is needed. The MoCA test features portions focusing on clock drawing. The clock-drawing test is a non-verbal test in which the patient is asked to draw a clock, put in all the numbers and set the hands for a specific time. The clock-drawing test is used in multiple cognitive assessments to evaluate visuospatial, numerical sequencing and planning abilities.
  • Memory Impairment Screen (MIS): The memory impairment screen is a preliminary assessment that is usually paired with other assessments. The assessment includes tasks like identifying words with a specific category and reading words out loud, then recalling those words post-assessment.
  • Mini-Cog: The mini-cog test includes short-term recall and clock-drawing and takes 3-5 minutes to complete. This test is used in both community and healthcare settings to help determine cognitive impairment in older adults. While not a substitute for a complete diagnostic battery, it can be used to provide information about memory and other executive functions.
  • 7-minute screen test (7MS): This test is designed to diagnose early-stage Alzheimer’s and cognitive impairment that doesn’t always lead to Alzheimer’s. The test contains orientation questions, enhanced cued recall and the clock test, and takes between 7-8 minutes to complete.
  • Saint Louis University Mental Status Exam (SLUMS): Including 11 items on their screening test, the SLUMS test effectively identifies those who exhibit signs of mild cognitive impairment but haven’t yet progressed to Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related diseases. The test considers verbal fluency, shape identification and the naming of several animals.
  • AD8 Informant Interview: The AD8 is a brief questionnaire that is taken by the patient’s spouse, child, friend or caregiver, also known as the informant. The questionnaire includes 8 questions with a yes/no answer format that assesses whether there have been cognitive or functioning changes in the past few years to include executive function, interest in activities and memory. 
  • General practitioner assessment of cognition (CPCOG): This brief assessment evaluates cognitive impairment through a series of questions that take 2-5 minutes to complete. The questions include repeating and remembering information, stating the current date, the clock-drawing test and remembering a recent news event.
  • SAGE at-home test: Designed to be taken at home then brought to a dementia specialist to review, this test evaluates language skills, memory, executive functioning, orientation, language and naming abilities and visuospatial abilities.

If you have additional questions about cognitive assessments or feel you or a loved one is a candidate for these tests, make an appointment with a doctor today. We’re here for you every step of the way.