Background: Cognitive impairment is common in patients with cerebral small vessel disease, but is not well detected using common cognitive screening tests which have been primarily devised for cortical dementias. We developed the Brief Memory and Executive Test (BMET); a rapid screening measure sensitive to the impaired executive function and processing speed characteristic of small vessel disease (SVD). To assess the BMET's validity for general use, we evaluated it when administered by non-psychologists in a multicentre study and collected control data to derive normative scores.
Methods: Two-hundred participants with SVD, defined as a clinical lacunar stroke and a corresponding lacunar infarct on MRI, and 303 healthy controls aged between 40-90 years old were recruited. The BMET, as well as the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) and Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE), were performed. Overall, 55 SVD participants underwent repeat testing at 3 months to assess the BMET test-retest reliability.
Results: Administering the BMET took a mean (SD) of 12.9 (4.7) in cases and 9.5 (2.6) minutes in controls. Receiver Operator Curve analysis showed the BMET was a good predictor of cognitive impairment in SVD (AUC = 0.94) and performed significantly better than both the MoCA (AUC = 0.77) and the MMSE (AUC = 0.70). Using a cut-off score of 13, the BMET had a sensitivity of 93% and specificity of 76% for detecting cognitive impairment in SVD.
Conclusions: The BMET is a brief and sensitive tool for the detection of cognitive impairment in patients with SVD.