Operationalizing the diagnostic criteria for mild cognitive impairment: The salience of objective measures in predicting incident dementia

Henry Brodaty*, Liesbeth Aerts, John D. Crawford, Megan Heffernan, Nicole A. Kochan, Simone Reppermund, Kristan Kang, Kate Maston, Brian Draper, Julian N. Trollor, Perminder S. Sachdev

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is considered an intermediate stage between normal aging and dementia. It is diagnosed in the presence of subjective cognitive decline and objective cognitive impairment without significant functional impairment, although there are no standard operationalizations for each of these criteria. The objective of this study is to determine which operationalization of the MCI criteria is most accurate at predicting dementia. Design: Six-year longitudinal study, part of the Sydney Memory and Ageing Study. Setting: Community-based. Participants: 873 community-dwelling dementia-free adults between 70 and 90 years of age. Persons from a non-English speaking background were excluded. Measurements: Seven different operationalizations for subjective cognitive decline and eight measures of objective cognitive impairment (resulting in 56 different MCI operational algorithms) were applied. The accuracy of each algorithm to predict progression to dementia over 6 years was examined for 618 individuals. Results: Baseline MCI prevalence varied between 0.4% and 30.2% and dementia conversion between 15.9% and 61.9% across different algorithms. The predictive accuracy for progression to dementia was poor. The highest accuracy was achieved based on objective cognitive impairment alone. Inclusion of subjective cognitive decline or mild functional impairment did not improve dementia prediction accuracy. Conclusions: Not MCI, but objective cognitive impairment alone, is the best predictor for progression to dementia in a community sample. Nevertheless, clinical assessment procedures need to be refined to improve the identification of pre-dementia individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-497
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • mild cognitive impairment
  • dementia conversion
  • diagnostic criteria
  • cognitive impairment
  • dementia prediction


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