Background: Existing tools for rapid cognitive assessment in HIV-positive individuals with mild cognitive deficits lack sensitivity or do not meet psychometric requirements for tracking changes in cognitive ability over time.

Methods: Seventy-five nondemented HIV-positive patients were evaluated with the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA), a brief battery of standardized neuropsychological tests, and computerized tasks evaluating frontal-executive function and processing speed. Rasch analyses were applied to the MoCA data set and subsequently to the full set of data from all tests.

Results: The MoCA was found to adequately measure cognitive ability as a single, global construct in this HIV-positive cohort, although it showed poorer precision for measuring patients of higher ability. Combining the additional tests with the MoCA resulted in a battery with better psychometric properties that also better targeted the range of abilities in this cohort.

Conclusion: This application of modern test development techniques shows a path towards a quick, quantitative, global approach to cognitive assessment with promise both for initial detection and for longitudinal follow-up of cognitive impairment in patients with HIV infection.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-1293.2010.00910.x