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Mental Status Exam

Assessing Attention & Concentration

April 1st, 2023


Attention and concentration are essential cognitive functions that enable individuals to focus on tasks and process information. Key components of assessment include distractibility and digit span.


  • How to Assess

  • Serial sevens - ask the patient to subtract 7 from 100. Ask them to repeat this subtraction five times.
  • DLROW - ask the patient to spell WORLD backward.
  • Months - ask the patient to recite the months of the year backward.
  • Causes of Distractability

  • Normal behaviour
  • Mania
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis
  • Advanced age

Digit Span

  • How to Assess

  • Tell the patient a series of numbers and ask them to immediately repeat them back. Start with three digits (e.g. 6 2 3) and increase until the patient is unable to repeat them back correctly.
  • Normal Span

  • 6 ± 1 digits
  • Causes of Impairment

  • Delirium
  • Dementia
  • Aphasia
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