This review considers the advantages that both standardization and automation of cognitive function testing can bring to clinical research. It reviews progress made in several fields of medicine with a standardized and automated cognitive function assessment system which has been in use in worldwide clinical trials for over 20 years. Data are presented showing the effects on cognitive function of both normal ageing and a variety of diseases. The utility of cognitive testing in the identification and classification of dementia is considered, and its ability to further our understanding of the cognitive sequelae of stroke is discussed. The correlation between assessments of cognitive function and patients' ability to undertake the activities of daily living is evaluated. Finally, the use of such techniques to identify beneficial effects of treatment in various conditions is described. The review concludes that standardization and automation of cognitive function testing have facilitated progress in a number of fields, and that the systematic application of such a technique in menopause research would greatly help advance our knowledge in this field.