Adaptation of the Clinical Dementia Rating Scale for adults with Down syndrome

J Neurodev Disord. 2019 Dec 16;11(1):39. doi: 10.1186/s11689-019-9300-2.


Background: Adults with Down syndrome (DS) are at increased risk for Alzheimer disease dementia, and there is a pressing need for the development of assessment instruments that differentiate chronic cognitive impairment, acute neuropsychiatric symptomatology, and dementia in this population of patients.

Methods: We adapted a widely used instrument, the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) Scale, which is a component of the Uniform Data Set used by all federally funded Alzheimer Disease Centers for use in adults with DS, and tested the instrument among 34 DS patients recruited from the community. The participants were assessed using two versions of the modified CDR-a caregiver questionnaire and an in-person interview involving both the caregiver and the DS adult. Assessment also included the Dementia Scale for Down Syndrome (DSDS) and the Raven's Progressive Matrices to estimate IQ.

Results: Both modified questionnaire and interview instruments captured a range of cognitive impairments, a majority of which were found to be chronic when accounting for premorbid function. Two individuals in the sample were strongly suspected to have early dementia, both of whom had elevated scores on the modified CDR instruments. Among individuals rated as having no dementia based on the DSDS, about half showed subthreshold impairments on the modified CDR instruments; there was substantial agreement between caregiver questionnaire screening and in-person interview of caregivers and DS adults.

Conclusions: The modified questionnaire and interview instruments capture a range of impairment in DS adults, including subthreshold symptomatology, and the instruments provide complementary information relevant to the ascertainment of dementia in DS. Decline was seen across all cognitive domains and was generally positively related to age and negatively related to IQ. Most importantly, adjusting instrument scores for chronic, premorbid impairment drastically shifted the distribution toward lower (no impairment) scores.

Keywords: Cognitive decline; Cognitive impairment; Dementia; Down syndrome; Premorbid ability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Down Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Down Syndrome / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Status and Dementia Tests / standards*
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult