Mild Cognitive Impairment

There are no specific definitive tests for Mild Cognitive Impairment, so why should we worry about it? MCI, or Mild Cognitive Impairment, can be a precursor to one of the many types of dementia. It can also indicate other medical concerns.

Mild Cognitive Impairment

Perhaps you or someone close to you is worried about your memory, judgment, or your general ability to think the way you used to. Some people do not seek out answers because they fear what they might learn. But time is of the essence when cognition appears to be affected. It may not be dementia, and not all people who are diagnosed with MCI develop dementia. It may indicate another medical problem.

What is the next step?

See your doctor as early as possible.

Your doctor may look at several factors that can affect cognition, such as your overall health and any changes that may have occurred. Doctor’s may check lab work, review your medications, diet, or even living environment. Your doctor may ask questions about depression, stress or grief in your life. You may be asked to undergo an MRI or CT scan of your brain to look for structural abnormalities or changes. Your doctor may conduct a test called the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) or Mini Mental Status Exam, which are cognitive screening tools. Try not to become too concerned if you are not a good “test taker”, your doctor should look at several factors as an overall picture.

Those closest to you may be asked to complete a questionnaire called the Alzheimer’s Questionnaire. Sometimes those closest to us notice changes we are unable to.


If there are concerns, your doctor may refer to you to a neurologist or neuropsychologist for further evaluation.

Some experts say we may be able to notice cognitive changes early if we complete a yearly exam ourselves. It is called the Animal Fluency test. In one minute, name as many different types of animals as you can while a partner keeps the time and tallies the result. You should be able to name 14 or more animals in one minute. Complete this test once a year or any time you notice a cognitive change. Your score should stay the same as last year or even improve. If not, it may indicate a reason for concern. For example, if you scored 30 last year but can name only 20 animals this year, or you cannot name at least 14 different animals, you might consider seeing your doctor for further evaluation.

With early detection of brain change, you may widen the diversity of treatments available to you in the future.


By Fiona Harper

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