2020 brought us a lot of things that we would probably rather forget about. But as we put a little time between us and events of the past, it becomes less painful to look back and say, “Did he REALLY say that?!” Unfortunately, yes, he did.
(If you were fortunate enough to have avoided that news story, you can find it here.)
The significance of this story (at least for the purposes of this article) is not the test-taker, but rather the test itself. It begs the question, “Is this REALLY the best way to assess someone’s cognitive ability?” Thankfully, that answer is no.
The test we are referring to is the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA). This is a brief, 30 question test that was designed as a quick way to assess if someone may be showing signs of dementia/mild cognitive impairment. It does NOT assess intelligence, nor does it definitively diagnose dementia. It is simply a way to quickly assess if a more thorough evaluation is needed by asking questions that evaluate orientation, short term memory, executive function, language abilities, abstraction, animal naming, attention, and clock-drawing. While it is not an intelligence test per-se, it does rely on learned skills (i.e. language, clocks, math, etc.). More on the intended use of the test can be found here.
Whenever there is a news story related to measuring cognitive function, either regarding Alzheimer’s Disease, TBI/Concussions, COVID brain, or any other neurological-related topics, you often hear the experts lament about the lack of a non-subjective, quantifiable test that could be used without any baseline testing. If only there was a way to easily, quickly, and accurately assess how someone’s brain is functioning!
Oh wait, there is!
Unlike tests like the MoCA, the BrainGauge does not rely on learned skills of the test taker (other than understanding instructions). These cognitive assessment tests are biologically-based—meaning they are assessing how your brain is working at a very fundamental level (you can read more about that here, and also explore other earlier posts on how each test works). Because a “normal” human brain works the same at a fundamental level in everyone, no baseline test is needed in order to determine if there is variation from optimal functioning in the test taker. The scoring of the test is completely objective with no human subjectiveness or errors involved. However, similar to the MoCA, there is no claim that the BrainGauge definitively diagnoses anything, it simply is a very accurate way to determine if something is going on that should be further evaluated and diagnosed by a professional.
So while you still may cringe when listening to the previous president talk about his amazing MoCA test results, there is no reason to cringe at the thought that this is the only test to assess a person’s cognitive function.