Use of neuropsychological tests for the diagnosis of dementia: a survey of Italian memory clinics

BMJ Open. 2018 Mar 28;8(3):e017847. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017847.


Aim: Providing an overview of the neuropsychological tests used in Italian memory clinics (defined as Centers for Cognitive Disorders and Dementias-CCDD in Italy) for the diagnosis of cognitive disorders and dementias.

Methods: A total of 501 CCDD, out of all 536 active CCDD, were surveyed between February 2014 and August 2015 to verify the characteristics of the centres who performed a comprehensive neuropsychological assessment (NPA), defined as the administration of at least one test for verbal and visual episodic memory, attention, constructional praxis, verbal fluency and executive functions (minimum core tests-MCTs), as part of the diagnostic process.

Results: A total of 45.7% of Italian CCDD performed a comprehensive MCT as part of the diagnostic process. The logistic regression model showed that the probability of including at least one psychologist in the team was higher in the CCDD that reported using a comprehensive NPA (OR 4.55; 95% CI 2.92 to 7.1), that CCDD in Southern Italy had a lower probability of using an MCT (OR 0.56; 95% CI 0.35 to 0.89) and that the use of an MCT was higher in university/Institute for Scientific Research and Healthcare CCDD (OR 10.97; 95% CI 3.85 to 31.25).

Conclusion: Almost half of the CCDD administered a set of MCTs; while the remaining centres only performed few tests or screening procedures. The neuropsychological tests used in Italian CCDD were comparable with those used in other European countries. Performing a comprehensive NPA remains the best way to assess and monitor cognitive deficits over time, thus further debate on the current status of NPAs in clinical practice is needed.

Keywords: Alzheimer disease; dementia; diagnosis; memory clinic; neuropsychological test; survey research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis
  • Attention
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction
  • Dementia / diagnosis*
  • Diagnostic Services*
  • Executive Function
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Language
  • Logistic Models
  • Memory*
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires