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Open Access Research article

Word reading threshold and mild cognitive impairment: a validation study

Genevieve Arsenault-Lapierre1, Howard Bergman123 and Howard Chertkow12345*

Author Affiliations

1 Bloomfield Center for Research on Aging, Lady Davis Institute in Medical Research, Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital, Montreal, Canada

2 Department of Geriatric Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

3 Division of Geriatric Medicine, Department of Medicine, Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital, Montreal, Canada

4 Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Sir Mortimer B. Davis, Jewish General Hospital, Montreal, Canada

5 Lady Davis Institute, 3755 Chemin de la Côte Ste-Catherine, Montréal, Québec, H3T 1E2, Canada

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BMC Geriatrics 2012, 12:38  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-12-38

Published: 24 July 2012



It was previously found, in a pilot study, that Word Reading Threshold (WRT) test is abnormally prolonged in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), with high sensitivity and specificity. This validation study examines the WRT test as a prognostic tool in MCI individuals. We wish to confirm in a larger group the sensitivity and specificity of the WRT test and determine whether it is influenced by deterioration on other cognitive domains.


We measured WRT in 60 MCI individuals, 29 AD patients, and 33 normal elderly control (NE). We followed the MCI individuals over 8 years to monitor who progressed to dementia.


We found a statistically significant difference in WRT scores between the three groups. However, using the same cutoff of 85 milliseconds suggested by Massoud and his colleagues, we found lower diagnostic sensitivity (72%) and specificity (76%) when comparing NC and AD. Furthermore, the test did not clearly differentiate MCI individuals who progressed to dementia from those who did not. WRT was found to correlate to some degree with other cognitive domains, especially attention.


We conclude that the WRT is insufficient alone as a diagnostic tool for prodromal AD.