Age-correction of test scores reduces the validity of mild cognitive impairment in predicting progression to dementia.
A phase of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) precedes most forms of neurodegenerative dementia. Many definitions of MCI recommend the use of test norms to diagnose cognitive impairment. It is, however, unclear whether the use of norms actually improves the detection of individuals at risk of dementia. Therefore, the effects of age- and education-norms on the validity of test scores in predicting progression to dementia were investigated.Baseline cognitive test scores (Syndrome Short Test) of dementia-free participants aged>=65 were used to predict progression to dementia within three years. Participants were comprehensively examined one, two, and three years after baseline. Test scores were calculated with correction for (1) age and education, (2) education only, (3) age only and (4) without correction. Predictive validity was estimated with Cox proportional hazard regressions. Areas under the curve (AUCs) were calculated for the one-, two-, and three-year intervals.82 (15.3%) of initially 537 participants, developed dementia. Model coefficients, hazard ratios, and AUCs of all scores were significant (p<0.001). Predictive validity was the lowest with age-corrected scores (-2 log likelihood = 840.90, model fit ?2 (1) = 144.27, HR = 1.33, AUCs between 0.73 and 0.87) and the highest with education-corrected scores (-2 log likelihood = 815.80, model fit ?2 (1) = 171.16, HR = 1.34, AUCs between 0.85 and 0.88).The predictive validity of test scores is markedly reduced by age-correction. Therefore, definitions of MCI should not recommend the use of age-norms in order to improve the detection of individuals at risk of dementia.