Written by Josh Horsman
The MMSE test, which stands for Mini-Mental State Examination, is a common test you might be asked to take by your doctor or physician. However the very thought of taking such a test can be a source of understandable worry and angst for many people. To help put you at ease, here’s everything you need to know about the test:
What is it?
Despite its name, the Mini-Mental State Examination is not, in fact, actually an examination. There is no ‘passing’ or ‘failing’, it is simply a series of questions designed to assess the function of your brain. If you are asked to take the MMSE, it is probably because you have reported memory problems to your doctor, or you are worried about the possibility your memory is not what it used to be.
Why am I taking it?
The MMSE test is designed and structured so that the outcomes provide yourself and your doctor with a thorough assessment of the function of the different areas of your brain. This enables yourself and your doctor to understand exactly how well you and your brain are doing, and acts as a guide to any future treatment.
What am I asked?
The questions that make up the MMSE test are usually fairly simple and, while some may seem extremely random, they are in fact designed to assess the functionality of each different area of your brain. Therefore, you can expect some questions to be vastly different from each other. Some are extremely simple, such as requiring you to know the date, or spell basic words, while others require the use of visual-spatial skills, such as drawing, or recall skills such as remembering words and repeating them back.
What does it all mean?
When you complete an MMSE test, you will be given a score out of 30. If you score 27 or more, this suggests that your memory is normal and your brain functioning well. Score between 25 and 27 may suggest Mild Cognitive Impairment. Scores between 20 and 24 may suggest mild dementia, 13 to 20 suggest moderate dementia and if you score below 12, you may be demonstrating more severe symptoms.
That said, a low score on an MMSE test is certainly not a reason to panic. The test itself will not lead to a diagnosis, it is simply the first step in enabling yourself and your doctor to investigate the cause of the memory problems you are experiencing.
The test is not a hundred percent accurate and factors such as education and language can impact scores. However, should you score low on the test you could become eligible for certain drugs or treatments as a result of your score. In this event, your MMSE score can help to ensure that you receive the care and treatment you need when memory problems are making life difficult.
Ultimately, the MMSE is not something to be feared or concerned about. It may allow your doctor to rule out serious memory problems, should you score highly, or it might help identify the cause of memory problems and ensure that you can understand why your brain is not functioning properly and begin receiving the treatments that will help you to manage your condition.