Cognitive and Motor Norms for Huntington's Disease

Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2020 Aug 28;35(6):671-682. doi: 10.1093/arclin/acaa026.


Background: The progression of Huntington's disease (HD) for gene-expanded carriers is well-studied. Natural aging effects, however, are not often considered in the evaluation of HD progression.

Objective: To examine the effects of natural aging for healthy controls and to develop normative curves by age, sex, and education from the distribution of observed scores for the Symbol Digit Modalities Test, Stroop Word Reading Test, Stroop Color Naming Test, Stroop Interference Test, Total Motor Score, and Total Functional Capacity (TFC) from the Unified Huntington's Disease Rating Scale (UHDRS) along with a composite score.

Methods: After combining longitudinal REGISTRY and Enroll-HD data, we used quantile regression and natural cubic splines for age to fit models for healthy controls (N = 3,394; N observations = 8,619). Normative curves were estimated for the 0.05, 0.25, 0.50, 0.75, and 0.95 quantiles. Two types of reference curves were considered: unconditional curves were dependent on age alone, whereas conditional curves were dependent on age and other covariates, namely sex and education.

Results: Conditioning on education was necessary for the Symbol Digit, Stroop Word, Stroop Color, Stroop Interference, and composite UHDRS. Unconditional curves were sufficient for the Total Motor Score. TFC was unique in that the curve was constant over age with its intercept at the maximum score (TFC = 13). For all measures, sex effects were minimal, so conditioning on sex was unwarranted.

Conclusions: Extreme quantile estimates for each measure can be considered as boundaries for natural aging and scores falling beyond these thresholds are likely the result of disease progression. Normative curves and tables are developed and can serve as references for clinical characterization in HD.

Keywords: Huntington’s disease (HD); Normative data; Quantile regression; Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT); Unified Huntington’s Disease Rating Scale (UHDRS).

MeSH terms

  • Cognition*
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease* / complications
  • Huntington Disease* / genetics
  • Motor Skills
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reference Values