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Date of Award

Spring 2019

Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Sarah Raskin


The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) is a brief cognitive screening test designed to measure the cognitive decline of individuals suffering from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) due to disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and schizophrenia, but has shown its utility in testing cognition in many other areas of medicine. The MoCA is still relatively untested in adolescents. In this study, it's utility as a differential diagnostic tool between functional and organic disorders was looked at. Of primary interest was organic disorders that cause delirium such as autoimmune encephalopathy (AE). The aim of this research was to determine the sensitivity of the MoCA in pediatric individuals in general, and its utility as a differential diagnostic tool between organic and psychiatric disorders in this age cohort. The MoCA was administered to three cohorts (adolescent psychiatric inpatient, adolescent emergency department (ED) hospital control, and adolescent AE). Predictive variables were separated by age, ethnicity, and group. Results indicated that the MoCA may not be appropriate for use in individuals under age of 10. Ethnicity emerged as a predictor for performance on the MoCA, further demonstrating the need for cohort specific normative data. The results also showed that patients with AE performed significantly worse on the MoCA than either ED controls or the inpatient psychiatric cohort, indicating it might be useful as a differential diagnostic tool between psychiatric and organic disorders that cause delirium.


Thesis completed at Trinity College, Hartford, CT for the degree of Master of Arts in Neuroscience. Access to full text is limited to the campus community.