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The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) is a commonly used cognitive outcome in stroke trials. However, it may be insufficiently sensitive to detect impairment in high-functioning stroke survivors. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Toolbox Cognition Battery (NIHTB-CB), a 30-min comprehensive tablet-based cognitive assessment, may be a better choice to characterize cognitive issues in this cohort.
We compared MoCA and NIHTB-CB performance in young stroke survivors (18–55 years) with excellent functional outcomes (modified Rankin Scale 0–1) reporting subjective cognitive complaints to that of age-matched healthy controls. We recruited 53 stroke survivors and 53 controls. We performed a sensitivity analysis in those participants with normal MoCA scores (≥26).
Median MoCA scores were not significantly different between stroke survivors (27.0 vs. 28.0) and healthy controls. Mean T scores for NIHTB-CB fluid (44.9 vs. 54.2), crystallized (53.8 vs. 60.0), and total cognition (49.1 vs. 58.4) components were significantly lower in stroke survivors compared to healthy controls (p < 0.001 for all). In participants scoring within normal range (≥26) on the MoCA, NIHTB-CB scores for all components remained significantly lower in stroke survivors.
In young stroke survivors with excellent functional outcomes and subjective cognitive complaints, the NIHTB-CB, but not the MoCA, was able to detect differences in cognitive performance between stroke survivors and healthy controls. The NIHTB-CB may be a suitable outcome measure for cognition in clinical trials examining higher-functioning young stroke survivors.
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