Why is mini-mental state examination performance correlated with estimated premorbid cognitive ability?

Dominika Dykiert, Geoff Der, John Starr, Ian Deary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background Tests requiring the pronunciation of irregular words are used to estimate premorbid cognitive ability in patients with clinical diagnoses, and prior cognitive ability in normal ageing. However, scores on these word-reading tests correlate with scores on the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), a widely used screening test for possible cognitive pathology. This study aimed to test whether the word-reading tests’ correlations with MMSE scores in healthy older people are explained by childhood IQ or education. Method Wechsler Test of Adult Reading (WTAR), National Adult Reading Test (NART), MMSE scores and information about education were obtained from 1024 70-year-olds, for whom childhood intelligence test scores were available. Results WTAR and NART were positively correlated with the MMSE (r ≈ 0.40, p < 0.001). The shared variance of WTAR and NART with MMSE was significantly attenuated by ~70% after controlling for childhood intelligence test scores. Education explained little additional variance in the association between the reading tests and the MMSE. Conclusions MMSE, which is often used to index cognitive impairment, is associated with prior cognitive ability. MMSE score is related to scores on WTAR and NART largely due to their shared association with prior ability. Obtained MMSE scores should be interpreted in the context of prior ability (or WTAR/NART score as its proxy).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
JournalPsychological Medicine
Early online date5 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2016

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • mini-mental state examination
  • National Adult Reading Test
  • premorbid cognitive ability
  • Wechsler Test of Adult Reading


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