The study of the epidemiology of dementia, specifically Alzheimer's disease, in developing countries requires specialized instruments and personnel. Cultural and sub-cultural differences among populations are highly relevant to the design of such instruments. Over and above the cultural issues, it is widely recognized that low education and illiteracy pose considerable challenges to reliable and valid cognitive screening. The overall objectives of the Indo-US Cross-National Dementia Epidemiology Study were: a) to determine the prevalence and incidence of, and risk factors for, Alzheimer's and other dementias in a defined Indian community; and b) to compare these results with those found in a defined American community. To achieve these epidemiological objectives, our first task was to develop, systematically and empirically, suitable cognitive and activities assessment screening instruments for use in India, which would 1) be culturally fair, psychometrically sound, and valid for a population with little or no education; 2) be optimally sensitive and specific for dementia; and 3) allow not only the identification but also the more detailed characterization of dementia, and of normal and abnormal cognitive aging. In this paper we address the practical issues involved in the development and administration of the modified cognitive screening battery in our rural Indian context.