June 2016: Pendlebury ST, Markwick A, de Jager CA, Zamboni G, Wilcock GK & Rothwell PM (2012) Differences in cognitive profile between TIA, stroke and elderly research subjects: A comparison of MMSE and MoCA. Cerebrovascular Diseases, 34(1), 48-54 DOI: DOI:10.1159/000338905 available at http://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/338905
Methods: The MMSE and MoCA were done on consecutive patients with TIA or stroke in a population-based study (Oxford Vascular Study) 6 months or more after the index event and on consecutive subjects enrolled in a memory research cohort (the Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing). Patients with moderate-to-severe cognitive impairment (MMSE score of <24), dysphasia or inability to use the dominant arm were excluded.
Results: Of 207 stroke patients (mean age ± SD: 72 ± 11.5 years, 54% male), 156 TIA patients (mean age 71 ± 12.1 years, 53% male) and 107 memory research subjects (mean age 76 ± 6.6 years, 46% male), stroke patients had the lowest mean ± SD cognitive scores (MMSE score of 27.7 ± 1.84 and MoCA score of 22.9 ± 3.6), whereas TIA (MMSE score of 28.4 ± 1.7 and MoCA score of 24.9 ± 3.3) and memory subject scores (MMSE score of 28.5 ± 1.7 and MoCA score of 25.5 ± 3.0) were more similar. Rates of MoCA score of <26 in subjects with normal MMSE ( ≥27) were lowest in memory subjects, intermediate in TIA and highest after stroke (34 vs. 48 vs. 67%, p < 0.001). The cerebrovascular patients scored lower than the memory subjects on all MoCA frontal/executive subtests with differences being most marked in visuoexecutive function, verbal fluency and sustained attention (all p < 0.0001) and in stroke versus TIA (after adjustment for age and education). Stroke patients performed worse than TIA patients only on MMSE orientation in contrast to 6/10 subtests of the MoCA. Results were similar after restricting analyses to those with an MMSE score of ≥27.
Conclusions: The MoCA demonstrated more differences in cognitive profile between TIA, stroke and memory research subjects without major cognitive impairment than the MMSE. The MoCA showed between-group differences even in those with normal MMSE and would thus appear to be a useful brief tool to assess cognition in those with MCI, particularly where the ceiling effect of the MMSE is problematic.