The death knoll for the MMSE: has it outlived its purpose?

J Geriatr Psychiatry Neurol. 2010 Sep;23(3):151-7. doi: 10.1177/0891988710363714. Epub 2010 Mar 15.


The Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) is arguably the best-known cognitive screen in the world. Originally designed to assess cognitive impairment in elderly populations, it has become one of the first steps toward a dementia diagnosis. Routinely used in the clinic and in research internationally, the MMSE, despite its flaws, has managed to retain its popularity for more than 30 years. This review explores when and how the test is used, lists its advantages and disadvantages, and ultimately questions its value. The specific issue that is addressed here is whether the test has outlived its original purpose. The conclusion is that although the MMSE may be a useful tool in many circumstances where a cognitive screen is required, practitioners should be wary of using MMSE total scores as a shortcut toward a dementia diagnosis.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Education
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Mental Status Schedule*
  • Psychometrics
  • Reference Standards
  • Reference Values
  • Reproducibility of Results