The influence of language and culture on cognitive assessment tools in the diagnosis of early cognitive impairment and dementia

Expert Rev Neurother. 2018 Nov;18(11):859-869. doi: 10.1080/14737175.2018.1532792. Epub 2018 Oct 10.


Cognitive assessment tools measure cognitive impairment and complement biomarkers to link cognitive symptoms with pathophysiological processes underlying dementia. However, language and cultural differences in multilingual populations can influence the interpretation of cognitive assessment tools when applied in cross-cultural and multinational studies. Areas covered: This article examines the influence of culture and language on the interpretation of the Mini-Mental State Examination, Montreal Cognitive Assessment, and Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale-cognitive subscale, which are more commonly used worldwide. It discusses how this impacted multinational studies. Lastly, it presents language-neutral tools such as the Visual Cognitive Assessment Test, which do not require translation when applied in multilingual populations. Expert commentary: Linguistic and cultural variation within tools due to translation and differences in administration introduce method bias and differential item functioning, which influence the interpretation of cognitive scores in multinational studies. The ultimate goal is to have a tool that accurately measures cognitive impairment, yet with minimal influence from linguistic, cultural, educational, and demographic differences, through concerted international efforts to harmonize the development and validation of tools. While recently developed visual-based language-neutral tools show promise in the early detection of cognitive impairment, further validation will be required for these tools to be applied internationally.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-cognitive subscale; Mini-Mental State Examination; Montreal Cognitive Assessment; Visual Cognitive Assessment Test; culture; language.