What is a Mental State Examination?

Mental state examination for

The purpose of this paper is to provide a comprehensive review of information accumulated over the past 26 years regarding the psychometric properties and utility of the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE).


The reviewed studies assessed a wide variety of subjects, ranging from cognitively intact community residents to those with severe cognitive impairment associated with various types of dementing illnesses.

Main Outcome Measures

The validity of the MMSE was compared against a variety of gold standards, including DSM-III-R and NINCDS-ADRDA criteria, clinical diagnoses, Activities of Daily Living measures, and other tests that putatively identify and measure cognitive impairment.


Reliability and construct validity were judged to be satisfactory. Measures of criterion validity showed high levels of sensitivity for moderate-to-severe cognitive impairment and lower levels for mild degrees of impairment. Content analyses revealed the MMSE was highly verbal, and not all items were equally sensitive to cognitive impairment. Items measuring language were judged to be relatively easy and lacked utility for identifying mild language deficits. Overall, MMSE scores were affected by age, education, and cultural background, but not gender.


In general, the MMSE fulfilled its original goal of providing a brief screening test that quantitatively assesses the severity of cognitive impairment and documents cognitive changes occurring over time. The MMSE should not, by itself, be used as a diagnostic tool to identify dementia. Suggestions for the clinical use of the MMSE are made.

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