Memory Tests are a general term for assessments used to determine brain (cognitive) function. In dementia certain areas of the brain are commonly effected early on. These areas tend to affect certain aspects of brain function e.g. short-term memory recall which becomes apparent on memory tests. The below diagram illustrates the different functions of the varying areas (lobes) of the brain.
The so-called “memory-tests” look to assess each of these lobes to see how well they are functioning. So what happens when certain areas are impaired?
The neuropsychology testing commonly known as “memory tests” or “dementia tests” attempts to assess all the different brain functions to see if there are signs of impairment (damage/loss). The neuropsychologist (memory testing specialist) will use different tests for this including:
-Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination – third edition (ACE-III) – a general exam testing most aspects of the brain function
-Test of Premorbid Functioning (TOPF) : we all have different educational backgrounds and so it is important to get an idea of how good your functioning may have been beforehand so that we can see how noticeable the changes have been
-Motor Speed – DKEFS : basically testing the brains processing speed
-Attentional Capacity – using part of RBANS :
-Objection perception/Visuo-spatial functioning – using part of RBANS : drawing tests are used for this part
-Language – RBANS naming subtest
-Memory -using RBANS : this is split into verbal and visual memory and is simply the ability to recall words and figures
-Executive Functioning – initiation of activity using ACE-III : basically the ability to perform a simple staged task requested by the doctor.
-Executive Functioning – Cognitive Flexibility (DKEFS) : this is the ability to switch attention during a verbal task
This is an example list of the different tests used for a dementia or memory assessment. The neuropsychologist will then try and summarise the results. For each section they will comment on how the patient did e.g. whether they fell within the average, high or range depending on what is expected for the majority of people of a similar background.
In addition to the tests the Neuropsychologist will also look at a persons daily functioning, known as activities of daily functioning (ADLs). These can include simple things like washing, cooking, bathing, dressing, etc. How a person is coping with these is important especially if there has been a change over a period of months to years.
Finally the neuropsychologist will look at a persons overall mental health along with the memory tests. They will screen for common disorders like depression or anxiety. They can use similar tests/scales like the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ) or the Generalised Anxiety Disorder Scale (GDS). This is important as memory problems can sometimes be associated with other mental health problems either as a cause or consequence. Click here to see more on the assessment process.