• What is Cognitive Testing?

    What is Cognitive Testing?

    Cognitive testing is a kind of examination basically used to measure the mental weaknesses and strengths of a human.  While most humans are prone to mental impairment and mental retardation as age progresses, or due to certain medical conditions, cognitive testing is important to assess their capability to reason out, think, remember, make decisions, and solve puzzles.  When a person has undergone some medical interventions, cognitive test also works to measure how the person response to the given treatment. This type is test is exclusively administered by mental healthcare providers or psychologist by using two approaches. The first one measures the mental capacity of a person through qualitative approach which involves assessing the behavior of the person. The second one is done through quantitative approach which uses standardized and scaled measures.

    The very first types of cognitive tests are done way back in the 1900s and some are still being used today. For instance, the pencil-and-paper which originated in the 1920s remained to be one of the best assets psychologists and psychiatrists use to assess the intelligence of a person. It involves measuring numerical and verbal abilities of a person by allowing patients to take a series of tests given some specific diagnostic tools and test materials. Such method is also used to determine how much a person has recovered from brain injury and disorder, or depression by allowing the person to rate himself through a given checklist of symptoms and signs of light anxiety to severe depression.

    However, with the emergence of technology, various computerized cognitive test have already exists today. These tests are a way different than the latter by being able to predict further complications or the likelihood of a person to suffer from brain and memory problems in the future.

    Who can undergo Cognitive testing?

    Most people that undergo cognitive testing are those who have suffered from cognitive ailments or those who have altered their cognitive functions due to severe depression. Cognitive ailments are brought by various different factors. It can be genetic or hereditary; however, it can also be a result by previous medications that have great effects to the brain such as chemotherapy. Chemotherapy cause “brain fog” to patients that most of the time causes their thinking ability to slow down.  Cognitive impairment can also be brought by the symptoms of menopausal. Women who are at the threshold of their menopausal usually experience short-term memory loss and mild depressions that triggers mental inabilities and mood swings. A common cognitive impairment on aged people is brought by progressive ailment known as Alzheimer’s disease. Persons under such conditions are basically subject to thorough cognitive test to assess the severity of their disease and their response to the medical treatments. Although, Alzheimer’s disease is an incurable one, cognitive test guides psychologist to counteract the precise medical interventions to slow down its symptoms. Another factor that brings up cognitive impairment is stroke. Persons who have experienced spontaneous strokes or at least one severe stroke incur negative impact to the brain and may experience dementia.

    In truth, people who have mental impairment are unable to do the daily normal task or perform normal cognitive functions which make them incapable of catching up with the fast pacing society. In this case, people under such condition need a great deal of help to overcome such illness and restore the capabilities to progress as a normal person.  Especially that mental impairment chooses no age, such that teenagers are prone to be suicidal due to a great depression, cognitive test allows psychologist to discover the root cause of the problem, apply medical interventions, and guide one to recovery.

    Types of Cognitive Test

    There are many types of cognitive test that exist to examine the psychology of the brain. Each depends on how they are applied to the person. The following are examples of tests done to assess the cognitive development or status depending on different instances on which a person may need it.

    In assessing person’s intelligence for job suitability

    The cognitive to test a person’s intellectual ability to assess performance in the future job is known as aptitude or general assessment test. This may be done to determine how much ready a person is to tackle a new job whether or not he has undergone previous physical and mental medications.

    • Kohl Block test – This test basically asses the condition of the parietal and frontal lobes which can be greatly affected by head injuries. This test was adopted by David Wechsler that examines a person’s intelligence by measuring the visuospatial and motor skills. In this test, a patient is required to arrange colored blocks in a pattern under a given time frame. Good results mean appropriate functioning of the areas of the brain being tested; hence, the person passed the intelligence test.
    • Stanford-Binet test – This type of test is one of the modern ways of testing intelligence which originally came from France and revised in the United States. This test involves excessive testing for attention, memory, and verbal skill. This was also done before to assess if a child needs to enroll in a special education.
    • Sentence Completion Blank – This type of test involves projective techniques in which a patient is provided with stem sentences which they would complete to asses attitude beliefs, motivation and other mental states. The test is administered through a booklet and is short or as lengthy as 100 items. This is used to assess personality, attitude, and achievement motivation in order to determine suitability for management, education, job, and marketing.

    On detecting probability of suicidal attempts

    There are a lot of factors that can trigger an individual to attempt suicide. Especially at the threshold of adolescence, sensitivity or the state of being bipolar may start to be greatly noticed by parents on their children. These signs; however, are indications of mental or psychological problem which may need to be assessed in order to receive proper medication or treatment through some cognitive tests. The following are example of tests done to assess the likelihood of patients to attempt suicide.

    • Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) – This type of test basically involves picture interpretation technique in which a patient is shown with provocative pictures to tell a story about. The patient is then required to provide the root cause of the event, the feelings and emotions involve during the happening, and the outcome. This projective psychological test is done to assess the person’s currents state of thinking and how bad the patient is likely to commit suicide due to severe emotions cause by a traumatic experience and depression.
    • Suicide Probability Scale – A type of pencil and paper test that allows experts to accurately measure the suicidal attempt of the patient through a routine screening. In this case, the patients are given time which usually lasts in a maximum of 10 minutes to rate themselves with the various thoughts feelings, and ideas. Psychologists interpret the result through the suicide risk profile and are commonly done in patients with age 14 years and above.
    • Milan Multiaxial Clinical Inventory 2 (MCMI II) – This test involve is a type of pencil and paper test where the patient is required to answer a yes or no question about their reactions to previous experiences. Although the test requires time to complete, it asses major symptoms of social and personal maladjustments, substance abuse mental and psychological effects in relation to the patient’s likelihood to attempt suicide.
    • MMPI2 (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory 2) – Just like MCM II, this test is another type of pencil and paper test which can also be done in a computer. This also involves administering yes or no questions to patients to assess the different memory functions.

    In testing Memory Problems

    Memory problems results when the brain is damaged. Instances like stroke, dementia, or severe adverse effects of drug addiction can cause malfunctions in some essential part of the brain that leads the person to suffer from short term or long term memory loss. The following are some tests administered to assess memory problems in patients.

    • Neurobehavioral Cognitive Status Exam – This type of test is now called “Cognistat”, a cognitive test which assesses the patient in five aspects. These include language, construction, memory, calculations and reasoning.  This is basically used by internists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, physiatrists and psychiatrists to test cognitive development in people who have suffered from stroke, dementia, traumatic brain injury, major psychiatric disorders and substance abuse by surveying the different factors affecting them such as the psychological and pharmacological impacts of a person involved.
    • Dementia Rating Scale – This test is basically used to keep track on the cognitive development and mental status of elder people who primarily suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive impairment as result of dementia. The test usually lasts from 10 to 15 minutes depending on the case of the patient through the administration 36-task and 32-stimulus cards.
    • Wechsler Memory Scale-Revised (WMS-R) – Its new edition which is WMS-IV previously revised in 2009 includes administration of seven subtests to assess the different memory functions of people from age 16 to 90. In this test, patients are required to perform a specific variety of tasks and are asked to retell certain experiences which makes make it a little bit time consuming compared to other tests. ‘

    The Biases in Cognitive Test Result Interpretation

    The series of tests produce results that are exclusively and carefully interpreted by psychologists and psychiatrists. As they read the result, they are able to know what is particularly going on with the patient and prepare some medical interventions to counteract the person’s ailment or disease. However, though the results are aimed to be as objective as possible, they still may be affected by the biases triggered by different situations. The following are the common biases that affect the results of cognitive tests.

    • Experimenter’s biases – This happens as psychologists, psychiatrist, or internist interprets and analyze the data gathered through the test. Although there may be manuals to guide through the interpretation of result, final interpretation may be affected by the desired outcome and expectation of the test conductors as they try to downgrade data that do not match any of the expected results.
    • Anchoring – This bias in decision-making is also known as focalism where the psychologists or psychiatrists mostly rely on the first  information or background factor that leads the person to a certain state or condition. This however can affect future results by interfering and weighing more during correlation and comparison of the data that are currently gathered after the test or study to the data previously gathered. This also happens when psychologists encounter hard time adjusting with the results upon focusing too much on just one piece of information.
    • Negativity Bias – This occurs when psychologists tend to give more attention to the negative factors or happening that affects the condition of the patient instead of the positive ones. For instance, a person may feel worse upon telling both negative and positive experience that are so much close together rather than feeling neutral at all.
    • Outcome bias – This is an error that basically occurs upon testing the quality of decision when it happened to have been determined already. This is common during interpretation of result with focus on a previous result instead of the correct answers gathered by the current data.






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