The way you perform daily tasks, how you retain and use information, and how your brain wholly functions can collectively be called “cognition.” Cognition is essentially your day-to-day functioning as well as how you can spatially, verbally, and logically relate and problem-solve. When one is affected by mental illness, one or more of these areas can be impaired.
What Is a Cognitive Test?
Cognitive testing, also called neurocognitive testing or psychometric testing, assesses your ability to think clearly and to determine if any mental conditions exist. If so, this testing allows one to determine if said condition is getting better or worse. Assessments of this kind can be used in mental health facilities or for employment screenings.
Early versions of cognitive tests were established around 100 years ago and developed through the ages. “Pencil and pen” tests were widely used up until the advent of computerized testing in the 1970s and 1980s. These new tests offered more accurate data reporting and a better assessment on response time.
What Areas of Cognition Do These Tests Study?
Cognition tests are not necessarily considered intelligence tests, or IQ tests. As reported by CogState, an Australian cognitive science and technology company, these assessments measure three common areas of cognition: memory, executive function, and attention. Of course, these areas have more specific facets. The questions asked during a cognitive test aim to explore basic function and these areas. Some cognitive regions that may be tested are:
- Physical appearance including age, weight, height, and other vitals. This can help differentiate mental and physical conditions. This can be useful in the case of substance abuse or alcohol dependency.
- Orientation of basic information such as your name, the date, the season, where you live, and names of family members. As confusion can be associated with some mental illnesses, this can help make a better and more accurate diagnosis.
- Attention span, according to MedlinePlus, can be a determinant in the rest of the cognitive assessment. This tests your ability to complete a thought and think rationally. This portion of an assessment also looks at how easily you are distracted.
- Recent past and memory can include questions on childhood memories, family members, your current job or living situation, or current events. As memory can be impacted with certain mental illnesses or substance addictions, it’s important to understand if and how severely memory has been impaired.
- Language testing involves your ability to read, write, and speak clearly. Testing may involve you writing or reading sentences or saying words out loud.
- Judgment can be largely subjective but the questions generally asked during this stage of testing help a physician to understand any impairments to reasoning and problem-solving abilities. Questions might include moral decisions like what might you do if you found someone’s wallet or if you got pulled over by the police while driving.
Why Cognitive Testing Is Important
Cognitive testing is crucial in assessing and diagnosing any mental health conditions you may have. Without a proper evaluation, very little can be done to solve the problem on a long-term basis. In order to appropriately treat someone for a mental health condition, its impact on the individual has to be known. When you enter treatment at a Foundations Recovery Network facility, our treatment professionals can evaluate your mental state and offer an informed course of action for treatment. Call us anytime to discuss options that are right for you with one of our treatment coordinators.
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.
Reviewed by: Kim Chin and Marian Newton