• cognition;
  • psychiatric emergency services;
  • mass screening;
  • sensitivity and specificity;
  • differential diagnosis


Objectives:  In certain clinical contexts, the sensitivity of the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) is limited. The authors developed a new cognitive screening instrument, the Brief Cognitive Screen (BCS), with the aim of improving diagnostic accuracy for cognitive dysfunction in the psychiatric emergency department (ED) in a quick and convenient format.

Methods:  The BCS, consisting of the Oral Trail Making Test (OTMT), animal fluency, the Clock Drawing Test (CDT), and the MMSE, was administered to 32 patients presenting with emergent psychiatric conditions. Comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation served as the criterion standard for determining cognitive dysfunction. Diagnostic accuracy of the MMSE was determined using the traditional clinical cutoff and receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analyses. Diagnostic accuracy of individual BCS components and BCS Summary Scores was determined by ROC analyses.

Results:  At the traditional clinical cutoff, MMSE sensitivity (46.4%) and total diagnostic accuracy (53.1%) were inadequate. Under ROC analyses, the diagnostic accuracy of the full BCS Summary Score (area under the curve [AUC] = 0.857) was comparable to the MMSE (AUC = 0.828). However, a reduced BCS Summary Score consisting of OTMT Part B (OTMT–B), animal fluency, and the CDT yielded classification accuracy (AUC = 0.946) that was superior to the MMSE.

Conclusions:  Preliminary findings suggest the BCS is an effective, convenient alternative cognitive screening instrument for use in emergent psychiatric populations.

ACADEMIC EMERGENCY MEDICINE 2010; 17:307–315 © 2010 by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine