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One of the neuropsychological tests doctors conduct for screening (N.B. Screening not Diagnosing) dementia is Folstein’s Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE) which uses the three objects for immediate and delayed recall.
This is how it normally goes:
Doctor: I’m going to say three words. After I say them, say them back to me
Mango Paper Table
Patient: Mango Paper Table
Doctor: I’d like you to remember these three words because later I am going to ask for them again
(After a brief distraction which may be the Serial Sevens, the doctor again asks the patient those three words)
Doctor: Do you remember the three words I asked you to remember.
It would be that the number of words a patient remembers or the speed with which they remember them depends on the magnitude or degree of the impairment.
One particular patient has been having a hard time remembering any of the words and she appeared to be painfully sluggish. So that even if she would not be getting a point for this, I tried to give her a cue.
Doctor: Ma’am, do you remember any of the three words?
Patient: I don’t remember.
Doctor: OK, I’ll give you a clue. One of them is a fruit.
To this the patient seemed jolted from a trance and exclaimed ‘Did you just say fruit?’
Doctor: Yes Ma’am. A fruit.
Patient: (This time laughing) ‘Ha ha ha. Ha ha ha ha. No, way. No way. No way will I remember that because I never liked fruits!’