Background: Due to the high prevalence of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia in Parkinson disease (PD), routine cognitive screening is important for the optimal management of patients with PD. The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) is more sensitive than the commonly used Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) in detecting MCI and dementia in patients without PD, but its validity in PD has not been established.
Methods: A representative sample of 132 patients with PD at 2 movement disorders centers was administered the MoCA, MMSE, and a neuropsychological battery with operationalized criteria for deficits. MCI and PD dementia (PDD) criteria were applied by an investigator blinded to the MoCA and MMSE results. The discriminant validity of the MoCA and MMSE as screening and diagnostic instruments was ascertained.
Results: Approximately one third of the sample met diagnostic criteria for a cognitive disorder (12.9% PDD and 17.4% MCI). Mean (SD) MoCA and MMSE scores were 25.0 (3.8) and 28.1 (2.0). The overall discriminant validity for detection of any cognitive disorder was similar for the MoCA and the MMSE (receiver operating characteristic area under the curve [95% confidence interval]): MoCA (0.79 [0.72, 0.87]) and MMSE (0.76 [0.67, 0.85]), but as a screening instrument the MoCA (optimal cutoff point = 26/27, 64% correctly diagnosed, lack of ceiling effect) was superior to the MMSE (optimal cutoff point = 29/30, 54% correctly diagnosed, presence of ceiling effect).
Conclusions: The Montreal Cognitive Assessment, but not the Mini-Mental State Examination, has adequate psychometric properties as a screening instrument for the detection of mild cognitive impairment or dementia in Parkinson disease. However, a positive screen using either instrument requires additional assessment due to suboptimal specificity at the recommended screening cutoff point.