Sunday, September 27, 2020
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Trump passes cognitive test with flying colors

The results of a test of cognitive functioning administered by doctors to President Donald Trump as part of his annual check-up are in, and he got a perfect score, the New York Times reports.

“I’ve found no reason whatsoever to think the president has any issues whatsoever with his thought processes,” the paper quoted Dr Ronny L Jackson, a rear admiral in the Navy and the White House physician, as telling reporters on Tuesday.

In other results, Dr Jackson said the president could lose 10 pounds and is too sedentary but that, at 71 years old, is in excellent general health.

The cognitive test used is the MoCA

To check for possible cognitive dysfunction, the US Department of Veterans Affairs used the Montréal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) neuropsychological test. It isn’t considered “comprehensive” and can miss some patients with early signs of dementia. But for most people who can focus long enough to answer very simple questions, it takes about 10 minutes to finish.

Although the exact answers weren’t released for Mr Trump’s test-taking session, examples of the types of questions found on the test are widely available. One question, for example, asks test-takers to draw a clock at ten past eleven.

Other questions assess an individual’s language, memory, and visuo-spatial skills, as well as other matters of the mind. Questions may have included the following:

  • draw a three-dimensional cube
  • identify various animals
  • repeat back, “The cat always hid under the couch when dogs were in the room”

Although the MoCA can support a diagnosis of dementia (call 1-800-DEMENTIA if you’re worried you may have dementia), the results are easy to misinterpret, given just the score, which, in the president’s case, was perfect.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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