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The mental status examination in adults

Po-Haong Lu, PsyD
Section Editor
Mario F Mendez, MD, PhD
Deputy Editor
Janet L Wilterdink, MD


Despite the technological advances in neuroimaging, there is still no way of directly observing cognitive function. Neuroscientists and clinicians continue to rely on the mental status or neuropsychological examination for much of their knowledge of the state and functioning of the brain. The study of the behavioral expression of brain dysfunction is the essence of mental status examination and neuropsychological assessment, which is critical to diagnostic accuracy, patient care and treatment planning, rehabilitation and treatment evaluation, and research.

Methods of examining cognition include:

Bedside or clinic mental status testing. This is generally the initial assessment of cognition and mental status and can be brief or more extensive depending on the setting and level of concern.

Mental status scales. These are usually used as a screening tool but also as a baseline measure to follow patients over time.

Neuropsychological testing for extensive evaluation.

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jul 23, 2014.
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