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Clin Nurs Res. 2007 Nov;16(4):336-49.

Assessing cognitive capacity for participation in a research study.

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Hunter College, City University of New York, USA.


To give informed consent in research, persons must be mentally capable of understanding the study, risks, and benefits. An objective screening tool may assess cognitive capacity better than brief conversations or clinician input. The purpose is to explore the validity of the Mental Alternations Test (MAT) to assess the cognitive capacity of older (ages 50 years +) HIV+ persons (N = 81). Descriptive correlational quantitative method was used. About 12% of the sample was cognitively impaired. Contrary to expectations, primary language was the only variable with a significant relationship with the MAT (r = -.22, p = .02); there were no significant relationships between the MAT and age, education, alcohol, smoking, injection drug use, street or mind-altering drug use, physical functional status, depressive symptoms, comorbidities, or being diagnosed with AIDS. Our findings suggest caution in using the MAT as an instrument for assessing cognitive impairment in a linguistically diverse population.

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