The clock drawing test: Utility for dementia detection in multiethnic elders

Soo Borson, Michael Brush, Eric Gil, James Scanlan, Peter Vitaliano, Jim Chen, Judy Cashman, Mary M. Sta Maria, Ross Barnhart, Jose Roques

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Background. Disproportionate increases in dementia morbidity in ethnic minorities challenge established screening methodologies because of language and culture barriers, varying access to health services, and a relative paucity of cross-cultural data validating their use. Simple screening techniques adapted to a range of health and social service settings would accelerate dementia detection and social and health services planning for demented minority elders. Methods. The effectiveness of the Clock Drawing Test (CDT) for dementia detection was compared with that of the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and the Cognitive Abilities Screening Instrument (CASI) in community-dwelling elders of diverse linguistic, ethnic, and educational backgrounds. Subjects (N = 295) were tested at home in their native languages (English, n = 141; another language, n = 154). An informant- based clinical dementia history and functional severity index derived from the Consortium to Establish a Registry for Alzheimer's Disease (CERAD) protocols were used to classify subjects as probably demented (n = 170), and probably not demented (n = 125). Results. All tests were significantly affected by education (p < .001) but not by primary language (p > .05). Sensitivities and specificities for probable dementia were 82% and 92%, respectively, for the CDT; 92% and 92% for the MMSE; and 93% and 97% for the CASI for subjects completing each test. However, in poorly educated non- English speakers, the CDT detected demented subjects with higher sensitivity than the two longer instruments (sensitivity and specificity 85% and 94% for the CDT, 46% and 100% for the MMSE, and 75% and 95% for the CASI). Moreover, less information was lost due to noncompletion of the CDT than the MMSE or CASI (severe dementia or refusal: CDT 8%, MMSE 12%, and CASI 16%). Conclusions. Overall, the CDT may be as effective as the MMSE or CASI as a first-level dementia screen for clinical use in multiethnic, multilingual samples of older adults. Its brevity (1-5 minutes), minimal language requirements, high acceptability, and lack of dependence on specialized testing materials are well adapted for screening of non-English-speaking elderly persons in settings where bilingual interpreters are not readily available and screening time is at a premium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)M534-M540
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1999


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