Background: To examine the discriminant validity of the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) and the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) in detecting patients with cognitive impairment at higher risk for dementia at a memory clinic setting.
Methods: Memory clinic patients were administered the MoCA, MMSE, and a comprehensive formal neuropsychological battery. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) subtypes were dichotomized into two groups: single domain–MCI (sd–MCI) and multiple domain-MCI (md–MCI). Area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (ROC) analysis was used to compare the discriminatory ability of the MoCA and the MMSE.
Results: Two hundred thirty patients were recruited, of which 136 (59.1%) were diagnosed with dementia, 61 (26.5%) with MCI, and 33 (14.3%) with no cognitive impairment (NCI). The majority of MCI patients had md–MCI (n = 36, 59%). The MoCA had significantly larger AUCs than the MMSE in discriminating md–MCI from the lower risk group for incident dementia (NCI and sd–MCI) [MoCA 0.92 (95% CI, 0.86–0.98) vs. MMSE 0.84 (95% CI, 0.75–0.92), p = 0.02). At their optimal cut-off points, the MoCA (19/20) remained superior to the MMSE (23/24) in detecting md–MCI [sensitivity: 0.83 vs. 0.72; specificity: 0.86 vs. 0.83; PPV: 0.79 vs. 0.72; NPV: 0.89 vs. 0.83; correctly classified: 85.1% vs. 78.7%].
Conclusion: The MoCA is superior to the MMSE in the detection of patients with cognitive impairment at higher risk for incident dementia at a memory clinic setting.