Why is measuring and monitoring cognitive functions so important?

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation reports that cognitive assessment is an essential step to improve cognitive functions, as well as to show the impact of cognitive improvement on long-term life outcomes.

“Rigorous, evidence-based testing is just beginning to uncover the degree to which executive function can be improved in individuals, as well as the actual long-term effects of those improvements.” Executive Function Skills for Student Success, BMGF 2019

From early years, measurements of cognitive functioning are very good predictors of a student’s readiness for learning, their capacity to learn and school achievements in the shorter term, longer term and future achievement. Intelligence quotient (IQ) scores or socioeconomic status can also be predicted from measurements of cognitive functioning. This means that measurements of cognition can tells us more about their long-term potential than intelligence or family background can do. Cognition is not a fixed trait and exists on a spectrum, often moving from between the poor end and good end throughout our lifetime. This can be due to a number of reasons; major life events, lifestyle changes, and weekly or daily activities. For this reason, monitoring cognition across the lifespan is the key to keep it in a good state and prevent cognitive health issues.

Childhood is a critical period for cognitive health because this is when major brain developmental changes are occurring and the higher-level cognitive abilities are forming, growing and refining. Also, childhood is a critical stage for the development of mental illness, with 50% of mental health problems emerging by 14 years and 75% by early 20’s, and cognitive dysfunction being a key risk factor. Shifts and adjustments in cognition are common during this age, but if cognitive assessments persistently report low measures, this may highlight an underlying deficit, needing to be addressed with specific interventions to prevent health and educational developmental implications for the child concerned.

Measuring and monitoring cognitive functions from an early school age is thus critical to evaluate children’s readiness to learning and is a key starting point to identify and address early signals of mental health problems. However, cognitive assessments have traditionally been relegated in clinical environment, requiring an expert intervention. They are difficult to access and expensive in terms of time and costs, making measurement of cognition available only when a problem is already wide-spread, without the possibility of preventing it.

But being able to accurately measure and monitor cognitive health in children daily life is now possible.

As a part of her review of the sector, Catherine May, strategist at Intentional Futures in partnership with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, reports MyCognition as a true differentiator, bringing a new, unique approach in the field.

The digital assessment tool developed by MyCognition, MyCQ – the My Cognitive Quotient – (https://mycognition.com/), is approved by the NHS in the UK (https://www.nhs.uk/apps-library/mycognition-home/) and CE marked as a Class 1a medical device. MyCQ can be easily completed in just 15 minutes within the home, school or community environment, without an expert’s supervision. Using schools’ or personal devices makes it a cost-efficient tool. It supports educators and parents to regularly monitor children’s cognitive fitness and evaluate cognitive profiles at individual, class and school level, allowing to increase the pedagogical understanding of learning in children and to identify the areas of greatest need for development.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has underlined the importance of gaining regulatory approval in order to establish credibility and effectiveness, and MyCognition is the first of the only two companies achieving this in the cognitive assessment space.

MyCQ has been evaluated against one of the most well-established assessments in the clinical research, the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB), which is the only regulated assessment tool mentioned together with MyCognition’s one.

The results of the validation study, published in the International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/mpr.1775) by the Department of Psychiatry and the Center for Human Factors Engineering of Health Information Technology at the University Medical Centre (UMC) in Amsterdam, with the collaboration of the Department of Neurology at Maastricht University Medical Centre, showed that MyCQ is a valid measure of cognition, correlating with CANTAB scores. However, patients found it more attractive and easier to use than the traditional assessment tools, which were referred as more arduous and tedious.

“The MyCQ appears to be a promising instrument for assessing cognition online […]. It is cost‐efficient, easily administered, and usable in different populations, which makes it a good candidate for both clinical and community studies”. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research

The MyCQ assessment has currently been adopted in multiple schools, communities, health facilities and businesses nationally and internationally. To learn more about how we can start improving the learning outcomes and mental resilience across your school, or to become an Education partner with MyCognition, please email martina@mycognition.com.

We are proud of the recognition from the Gates Foundation and look forward to sharing more news about the work we are doing across the education sector over the coming weeks. Keep watching this space!

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