MENTAL STATUS EXAM: ABNORMAL EXAMPLES

Orientation, Memory

This patient has difficulty with orientation questions. The day of the week is correct but he misses the month and date. He is oriented to place. Orientation mistakes are not localizing but can be due to problems with memory, language, judgement, attention or concentration. The patient has good recent memory (declarative memory) as evidenced by the recall of three objects but has difficulty with long term memory as evidenced by the difficulty recalling the current and past presidents.

Attention-working memory

The patient has difficulty with digit span backwards, spelling backwards and giving the names of the months in reverse order. This indicates a problem with working memory and maintaining attention, both of which are frontal lobe functions.

Judgement-abstract reasoning

The patient gives the correct answer for a house on fire and his answers for similarities are also good. He has problems with proverb interpretation. His answers are concrete and consist of rephrasing the proverb or giving a simple consequence of the action in the proverb. Problems with judgement, abstract reasoning, and executive function can be seen in patients with frontal lobe dysfunction.

Set generation

Set generation tests word fluency and frontal lobe function. The patient starts well but abruptly stops after only four words. Most individuals can give more then 10 words in one minute.

Receptive language

Patients with a receptive aphasia (Wernicke’s) cannot comprehend language. Their speech output is fluent but is devoid of meaning and contains nonsense syllables or words (neologisms). Their sentences are usually lacking nouns and there are paraphasias (one word substituted for another). The patient is usually unaware of their language deficit and prognosis for recovery is poor. 
This patient’s speech is fluent and some of her sentences even make sense but she also has nonsense sentences, made up of words and parts of words. She can’t name objects (anomia). She doesn’t have a pure or complete receptive aphasia but pure receptive aphasias are rare.

Expressive language

This patient with expressive aphasia has normal comprehension but her expression of language is impaired. Her speech output is nonfluent and often limited to just a few words or phases. Grammatical words such as prepositions are left out and her speech is telegraphic. She has trouble saying “no ifs , ands or buts”. Her ability to write is also affected.

Patients with expressive aphasia are aware of their language deficit and are often frustrated by it. Recovery can occur but is often incomplete with their speech consisting of short phrases or sentences containing mainly nouns and verbs.

Praxis

The patient does well on most of the tests of praxis. At the very end when he is asked to show how to cut with scissors he uses his fingers as the blades of the scissors instead of acting like he is holding onto the handles of the scissors and cutting. This can be an early finding of inferior parietal lobe dysfunction.

Gnosis

With his right hand the patient has more difficulty identifying objects then with his left hand. One must be careful in interpreting the results of this test because of the patient's motor deficits but there does seem to be astereognosis on the right, which would indicate left parietal lobe dysfunction. This is confirmed with graphesthesia where he definitely has more problems identifying numbers written on the right hand then the left (agraphesthesia of the right hand).

Dominant Parietal Lobe Function

This patient has right-left confusion and difficulty with simple arithmetic. These are elements of the Gertsmann syndrome, which is seen in lesions of the dominant parietal lobe. The full syndrome consists of right-left confusion, finger agnosia, agraphia and acalculia.

Non-Dominant Parietal Lobe Function

The patient’s drawing of a clock demonstrates a problem with visuospatial construction tasks, which reflects parietal lobe dysfunction. He doesn’t neglect the left side of space but he lists the numbers of the clock in two columns and then draws a line between the 8 and the 3 for 8:15.

Visual Recognition

Colors are correctly identified but the patient has difficulty correctly identifying the face of a president that he is familiar with. Further testing would be necessary to make sure this is prosopagnosia rather then a problem with attention or long term memory.

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