Underestimation of cognitive impairments by the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MOCA) in an acute stroke unit population Edgar Chan, Sabah Khan, Rupert Oliver, Sumanjit K. Gill, David J. Werring, Lisa Cipolotti PII: DOI: Reference:

S0022-510X(14)00295-0 doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2014.05.005 JNS 13182

To appear in:

Journal of the Neurological Sciences

Received date: Revised date: Accepted date:

11 December 2013 29 April 2014 8 May 2014

Please cite this article as: Chan Edgar, Khan Sabah, Oliver Rupert, Gill Sumanjit K., Werring David J., Cipolotti Lisa, Underestimation of cognitive impairments by the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MOCA) in an acute stroke unit population, Journal of the Neurological Sciences (2014), doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2014.05.005

This is a PDF file of an unedited manuscript that has been accepted for publication. As a service to our customers we are providing this early version of the manuscript. The manuscript will undergo copyediting, typesetting, and review of the resulting proof before it is published in its final form. Please note that during the production process errors may be discovered which could affect the content, and all legal disclaimers that apply to the journal pertain.

ACCEPTED MANUSCRIPT UNDERESTIMATION OF COGNITIVE IMPAIRMENTS BY THE MONTREAL COGNITIVE ASSESSMENT (MOCA) IN AN ACUTE STROKE UNIT

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POPULATION

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Edgar Chan1, PhD; Sabah Khan1, DPsych; Rupert Oliver1, MD; Sumanjit K Gill2, MD; David J Werring3, FRCP; Lisa Cipolotti1, PhD. 1

National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, London, UK, 2Watford General

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Hospital, Watford, UK, 3UCL Institute of Neurology, Stroke Research Group, London, UK.

Correspondence to:

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Dr Edgar Chan

Queen Square

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London WC1N 3BG.

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Box 37, NHNN

Email [email protected]

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Tel +442034484793. Fax +442034484761

Cover title: Cognitive impairments in acute stroke Contents: Manuscript, Table 1 and 2, Figure 1 Keywords: stroke; MoCA; cognition; neuropsychology; cognitive assessment; vascular disease Word count: 2310

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Abstract

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Background and Purpose - The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) is an increasingly

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popular clinical screening tool for detecting cognitive impairment in stroke, but few studies

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have directly compared performance on the MoCA with neuropsychological assessment. Our retrospective study examined the extent to which intact performance on the MoCA reflects intact cognition as determined by neuropsychological assessment.

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Methods –In this retrospective study, cognitive profiles were examined for 136 acute stroke

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patients admitted to the Acute Stroke Unit who had available MoCA and neuropsychological assessment data.

Results –22% of our patients were deemed cognitively intact on the MoCA. Of these, 78%

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were found to be impaired (≤5%ile) on neuropsychological assessment in one or more cognitive domains. The most common impairments were in general intelligence, information

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processing speed and visual memory; three areas not assessed by the MoCA. In addition, a high proportion (up to 59%) of patients who scored the maximum points on one of the

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MoCA-specified domains were impaired on comparable neuropsychological assessment. Conclusions – Our findings suggest that although the MOCA may be a useful screening tool post-stroke in detecting gross impairments, neuropsychological assessment is still necessary for a comprehensive and reliable detection of domain-specific cognitive deficits, which can more reliably inform us for realistic goal setting and vocational advice vital for effective rehabilitation.

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Introduction

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Cognitive impairment is a common sequelae following stroke. It can have substantial

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long-term functional consequences and is a significant burden on the health care system [1,2]. Early detection of domain-specific cognitive impairment post-stroke is invaluable for prognostic and rehabilitation purposes. Domain-specific cognitive impairments, in particular

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executive functioning and memory, have been shown to be good predictors for factors such

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as length of hospital stay, long-term impairment, and burden on community services [1-4]. The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) is an increasingly popular cognitive

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screening tool that has been shown to have better sensitivity in detecting post-stroke

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impairments compared with the Mini-Mental Status Examination (MMSE) [5-8]. In the UK, national guidelines [9,10] recommend that all patients should be assessed for cognitive

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impairment within 6 weeks post-stroke using a validated tool, particularly highlighting the MoCA [11]. It is thought to be more cognitively demanding than the MMSE, containing

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more items assessing important domains such as executive functions and attention. However, like most screening tools, the MoCA was originally designed to measure cognitive deterioration in dementia using an overall cut-off score. As such, domain-specific impairments are often not considered. Moreover, cognitive domains which are often impaired after stroke, such as intellectual functioning, speed of information processing and non-verbal memory, are not assessed by the MoCA. Only few studies with stroke patients have compared the sensitivity and specificity of the MoCA with the “gold standard” of neuropsychological assessment, with variable results [12-14]. Some studies reported the MoCA had good sensitivity but only moderate specificity, possibly reflecting the fact that the MoCA total-score measures performance across multiple

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ACCEPTED MANUSCRIPT domains with limited sensitivity for single-domain impairment [12]. One study found comparable sensitivity and specificity, but again that it was better for detecting amnestic

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impairments than single-domain non-amnestic impairments [13]. Until now however, the

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domain-specific pattern of sensitivity for the MoCA has not been fully characterised. The aim

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of our retrospective study was to compare intact performance on the MoCA, in regards to overall and domain-specific scores, with the “gold standard” of detailed neuropsychological

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assessment in a cohort of patients with acute stroke.

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Method

Three-hundred and sixty-four acute stroke patients admitted between January 2011 to

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July 2013 to the Acute Stroke Unit of the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery

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(NHNN), London and assessed by the Neuropsychology Department, were included in a retrospective audit of available data. This unit accepts local stroke patients within 24 to 72

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hours after admission to the University College Hospital Hyperacute Stroke Unit. All patients in the unit were assessed by a Clinical Neuropsychologist (E.C. or another member of the

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neuropsychology department, NHNN) as part of standard routine care. Inclusion criteria of the retrospective study were the availability of MoCA and neuropsychological data, and assessments had to be conducted within 3 months of the stroke event. Of those patients who had both MoCA and neuropsychological data available, six patients were excluded for having a history of psychiatric disorders and two patients were excluded for having a history of alcohol and drug abuse as determined from the hospital admissions/discharge report. The study was approved by the local clinical governance and ethics committees. One-hundred and thirty-six acute stroke patients were included. All patients were administered the MoCA followed by a neuropsychological assessment by the same clinician. Due to factors such as educational/occupational/cultural background/ability to cope with test

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ACCEPTED MANUSCRIPT demands, the same tests and/or same cognitive domains were not administered/assessed in all patients. As such, 27 patients were administered only sub-sections of the MoCA. The

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neuropsychological assessment comprised a standardized battery evaluating seven cognitive

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domains. However, as this was a retrospective study, patients were administered a subset of

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tests deemed suitable by the Clinical Neuropsychologist at the time. Current general intellectual functioning was assessed using the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale—Third Edition (WAIS-III) [15]. Premorbid intellectual functioning was assessed using the National

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Adult Reading Test (NART) [16]. Verbal and visual memory functions were assessed with

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either the Recognition Memory Test [17]. or the Doors and People test [18] and naming skills were examined either with the Graded Naming Test [19] or the Oldfield Naming Test [20].

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Perceptual functions were assessed using the Visual Object and Space Perception Battery

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[21]. Information processing speed was examined using one or more of the following tests: ‘O’ Cancellation, Digit Copy [22], Symbol Digit Modalities Test [23] or the Trail Making

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Test (Part A) [24]. Executive functions were examined using one or more of the following tests: Stroop Test [25]; Trail Making Test Part B [23], Weigl Colour Form Sorting Task [26]

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or the Hayling and Brixton Test [27]. Testing lasted approximately 60 minutes in total and was generally conducted in one session unless if patients were too fatigued. Patients were classed as cognitively intact on the MOCA if they scored ≥ 25 out of 30 [12,13]. Derived scores on neuropsychological assessment were calculated based on published standardized normative data; performance in each cognitive domain was classed as impaired/unimpaired according to predefined criteria [28]. In general, scores at or below the fifth percentile on any one test were taken to indicate impairment in that respective domain. For intellectual functioning, a difference equal to or greater than 10 between performance on the WAIS-III Verbal or Performance IQ measures and the estimated premorbid functioning on the NART was taken as evidence of intellectual decline.

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ACCEPTED MANUSCRIPT We conducted two main analyses: we first identified the patients classed as cognitively intact on the MoCA (i.e. MoCA-intact population) and investigated their

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performance on detailed neuropsychological assessment; we then identified patients who

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scored the maximum points on each of the MoCA-specified cognitive domains, irrespective

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of the overall score, and investigated their performance on neuropsychological assessments in the relevant domain and calculated the relevant negative predictive value (NPV).

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Results

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Thirty patients (22%) had MoCA-intact overall scores. Their demographic and clinical characteristics are shown in Table 1. There was no difference between the MoCA-

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intact and MoCA-impaired group on relevant demographic variables. In contrast, the MoCA-

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intact group had significantly higher estimated premorbid intellectual functioning and higher

Insert Table 1 here.

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current verbal and non-verbal intelligence.

Twenty-three (77%) of the MoCA-intact population were impaired on at least one domain on detailed neuropsychological assessment. Of the 23 patients, sixteen patients (70%) were impaired in two or more cognitive domains while the remaining seven patients (30%) were impaired in one cognitive domain only. The distribution of neuropsychological impairment across cognitive domains in the MoCA-intact population is shown in Figure 1.

Insert Figure 1 here.

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ACCEPTED MANUSCRIPT Of the MoCA-intact population, a high proportion of patients who were assessed on neuropsychological assessments had impairment in intellectual functioning (12 of 17

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patients), speed of information processing (14 of 25 patients) and non-verbal memory (9 of

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25 patients); domains not assessed by the MoCA. Notably however, a high proportion of

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patients also showed impairments in executive functioning (9 of 29 patients) and visuoperceptual/spatial domains (7 of 24 patients), which are assessed by the MOCA. Naming and verbal memory impairments were detected less frequently (3 of 30 and 3 of 28 patients

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respectively).

For patients who scored the maximum points within MoCA-specified cognitive

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domains irrespective of the overall score, their performance on neuropsychological

Insert Table 2 here.

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assessment for each domain, and the NPV, are summarized in Table 2.

More than 50% of the patients were impaired on attention despite scoring the maximum points on this domain on the MoCA. A relatively high proportion of patients also showed impairments in memory (35%), visuospatial/executive function (30%), and naming (21%).

For completeness, we also examined the neuropsychological performance of the MoCA-impaired group and found that 103 out of the 106 patients (97%) were impaired on one or more cognitive domains. Examination of the three remaining patients revealed that they also showed cognitive deficits on neuropsychological assessment. Although they did not

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ACCEPTED MANUSCRIPT score below the 5th percentile cut-off to be classed as “impaired”, all three patients were found to have mild to moderate executive dysfunction. Therefore, for our retrospective data

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using a cut-off score of ≥ 25, the MoCA showed good sensitivity (0.82) but moderate

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specificity (0.7), very good positive predictive value (0.97) but very poor negative predictive

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value (0.23).

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Discussion

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In our retrospective study, a striking 77% of patients classed as cognitively intact on the MoCA were found to be impaired across one or more cognitive domains on

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neuropsychological assessment. The most common impairments were in intellectual

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functioning, speed of information processing, and visual memory; three domains not assessed by the MoCA. Impairments in these domains however, are frequently detected post-stroke

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[1,3,4] and have high predictive value for functional outcome [29,30]. Although the MoCA may be useful in detecting gross cognitive impairments with a sensitivity of 0.82, it may have

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limitations in fully assessing relevant post-stroke impairments with a negative predictive value of 0.23.

Contrary to suggestions that poor specificity of the MoCA is related to poor detection of single-domain impairments [13,14], most of our patients were impaired on two or more cognitive domains. This may reflect the timing of assessments: whereas previous studies assessed patients at ≥1 year post-stroke [13,14], ours were assessed between 48h and 3 months post-stroke, when multiple-domain impairment may be more common [4]. We also found that intact performance within a MoCA-specified domain does not exclude impairment in that domain. More than half of our patients who scored the maximum points within the attention domain and one third of patients in the memory and

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ACCEPTED MANUSCRIPT visuospatial/executive

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the

MoCA

were

impaired

on

comparable

neuropsychological assessment. Our findings corroborate with a recent study which found

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poor correlation between performance on MoCA subtests and their neuropsychological

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counterpart [14]. The poor correspondence between performance on MoCA-specified

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domains and comparable neuropsychological assessment is most likely due to the lack of breadth and depth of screening items, and the absence of normative data to take into account factors such as age and pre-morbid intellectual functioning. In addition, another contributing

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factor may be that the MoCA-specified domains do not accurately reflect the cognitive

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processes required to complete the relevant tasks. For example, the “attention” domain contains a digit-span backwards task and a subtraction task which are commonly regarded as

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a test of working memory [15].

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Despite common apprehension regarding the feasibility of neuropsychological assessment during the acute phase post-stroke, our current study demonstrated that

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neuropsychological assessment is possible and can be informative over and above a basic cognitive screen. A prospective study by van Zandwoort and colleagues [4] found that 74%

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of patients consecutively recruited on an acute stroke ward were able to complete a one and a half hour cognitive assessment battery 4-20 days post-stroke, with 77% of patients able to complete 82% of the assessment battery. Importantly, on follow-up, they found that testprofiles of patients was stable over time despite overall improvement, and early measure of intellectual functioning and other cognitive domains had significant predictive validity with respect to functional outcome. Our findings further corroborate that neuropsychological assessment is feasible; it does not necessarily need to be exhaustive but should nevertheless be comprehensive. As this was a retrospective study examining data that was collected as a part of routine clinical care, there are some limitations that need to be considered. First, the

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ACCEPTED MANUSCRIPT proportion of patients that were included in the study was relatively small (37%). This is much lower than previous feasibility studies looking at completion rate of the MoCA and

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neuropsychological assessment in stroke populations [4,8] and most likely reflects the post-

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hoc nature of the current study design rather than an anomaly with the patient sample.

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Second, as there was no a priori neuropsychological battery, patients did not all complete the same set of tests and/or in the same order and it is difficult to determine retrospectively the reasons for missing data which may be clinically relevant. In addition, data regarding mood at

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time of assessment was not available for consideration. Finally, the clinician was not blind to

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the results of the MoCA prior to administering neuropsychological assessment which may have biased the selection of neuropsychological tests used.

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In conclusion, our findings suggest that the MoCA does not fully assess cognitive

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domains that are commonly affected following stroke. Furthermore, intact performance on MoCA-specified domains does not preclude the presence of domain-specific cognitive

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impairments. Our research advocates for the use of neuropsychological assessment tools for detecting cognitive impairment post-stroke. However, current resource limitations in local

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health services may not always allow for the provision of adequate neuropsychological services. Further research using a more rigid prospective design is needed to determine the potential clinical and functional importance and benefits of neuropsychological impairments not detected by the MoCA to help inform the development of more sensitive screening instruments for acute stroke.

Disclosures: None

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ACCEPTED MANUSCRIPT 29. Nys GMS, van Zandvoort MJE, de Kort PLM, van der Worp HB, Jansen BPW, Algra A et al.. The prognostic value of domain-specific cognitive abilities in acute first-ever stroke.

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- 241.

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ACCEPTED MANUSCRIPT Figures

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Figure 1. MOCA-intact population: Neuropsychological performance across domains.

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ACCEPTED MANUSCRIPT Table 1 Demographic and clinical characteristics.

(n=136)

Intact

(n=106)

Impaired

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Underestimation of cognitive impairments by the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) in an acute stroke unit population.

The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) is an increasingly popular clinical screening tool for detecting cognitive impairment in stroke, but few stud...
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