Measuring cognitive impairment and monitoring cognitive decline in Huntington's disease: a comparison of assessment instruments

J Neurol. 2023 Nov;270(11):5408-5417. doi: 10.1007/s00415-023-11804-0. Epub 2023 Jul 18.


Background: Progressive cognitive decline is an inevitable feature of Huntington's disease (HD) but specific criteria and instruments are still insufficiently developed to reliably classify patients into categories of cognitive severity and to monitor the progression of cognitive impairment.

Methods: We collected data from a cohort of 180 positive gene-carriers: 33 with premanifest HD and 147 with manifest HD. Using a specifically developed gold-standard for cognitive status we classified participants into those with normal cognition, those with mild cognitive impairment, and those with dementia. We administered the Parkinson's Disease-Cognitive Rating Scale (PD-CRS), the MMSE and the UHDRS cogscore at baseline, and at 6-month and 12-month follow-up visits. Cutoff scores discriminating between the three cognitive categories were calculated for each instrument. For each cognitive group and instrument we addressed cognitive progression, sensitivity to change, and the minimally clinical important difference corresponding to conversion from one category to another.

Results: The PD-CRS cutoff scores for MCI and dementia showed excellent sensitivity and specificity ratios that were not achieved with the other instruments. Throughout follow-up, in all cognitive groups, PD-CRS captured the rate of conversion from one cognitive category to another and also the different patterns in terms of cognitive trajectories.

Conclusion: The PD-CRS is a valid and reliable instrument to capture MCI and dementia syndromes in HD. It captures the different trajectories of cognitive progression as a function of cognitive status and shows sensitivity to change in MCI and dementia.

Keywords: Cognition; Dementia; Disease progression; Huntington’s disease; Mild cognitive impairment; Neuropsychology.

MeSH terms

  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / diagnosis
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / etiology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease* / complications
  • Huntington Disease* / diagnosis
  • Huntington Disease* / genetics
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Parkinson Disease* / complications
  • Parkinson Disease* / diagnosis