Open Access Open Badges Research article

The dementia and disability project in Thai elderly: rational, design, methodology and early results

Vorapun Senanarong14*, Kamolthip Harnphadungkit1, Niphon Poungvarin1, Sathit Vannasaeng1, Samut Chongwisal1, Tipa Chakorn1, Piyanuch Jamjumrus1, Atthapon Raksthaput1, Sinisa Chaichanettee1, Nattapol Aoonkaew1, Suthipol Udompunthurak1, Rachelle S Doody2 and Jeffrey L Cummings3*

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospita, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand

2 Baylor College of Medicine, Texas, USA

3 Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, Cleveland Clinic, 888 W Bonneville Ave, Las Vegas, NV, 89106, USA

4 Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, 2 Prannok Road, Bangkok, 10700, Thailand

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BMC Neurology 2013, 13:3  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-13-3

Published: 10 January 2013



A strong inverse relationship of functional limitation and socioeconomic status has been established in western ageing society. Functional limitation can be related to chronic diseases, disuse, cognitive decline, and ageing. Among chronic diseases in the Thai population, cerebrovascular diseases, diabetes, and arthritis are common. These factors are known to contribute to disability and poor quality of life in the elder population. Neuropsychiatric problems, cognitive decline, dementia, and cultural issues in elderly people also can alter the quality of life of the elderly.


The Dementia and Disability Project in Thai Elderly (DDP) aims at comprehensively assessing community dwelling Thai elderly to understand the relationship between disability and motor function, neuropsychiatric symptoms, cognitive function, and chronic diseases. The DDP is the first study to look at the prevalence and etiology of dementia and of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in Thai elders and to explore the relationship of cognition, disability, small vessel diseases and cortical degeneration with neuroimaging in Thai elderly people. 1998 Thai elders were screened in 2004–2006 and diagnosed as having MCI or dementia. 223 elders with MCI or dementia and cognitively normal elderly had brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or at baseline. 319 elders from the 3 groups had blood tests to investigate the risks and possible etiologies of dementia including genotyping at baseline.


The mean age of elders in this study is 69.51(SD=6.71, min=60, max=95) years. 689(34.9%) are men and 1284(65.1%) are women. Mean body weight was 58.36(SD=11.20) kgs. The regression model reveals that performance on gait and balance and serum triglyceride predicts activity of daily living performance (adjusted r2 = 0.280, f=2.644, p=0.003). The majority of abnormal gait in Thai elders was lower level gait disturbance. Only 1.5% (29/1952) had highest level gait disorders. 39.5% of 1964 subjects were free of chronic diseases. Treatment gap (indicating those who have untreated or inadequate treatment) of diabetes mellitus and hypertension in Thai elders in this study was 37% and 55.5% respectively. 62.6% of Thai elders have ApoE3E3 allele. Prevalence of positive ApoE4 gene in this study is 22.85%. 38.6% of Thai elders who had MRI brain study have moderate to severe white matter lesions.


The large and comprehensive set of measurements in DDP allows a wide-ranging explanation of the functional and clinical features to be investigated in relation to white matter lesions or cortical atrophy of the brain in Thai elderly population. An almost 2 year follow up was made available to those with MCI and dementia and some of the cognitively normal elderly. The longitudinal design will provide great understanding of the possible contributors to disability in the elderly and to the progression of cognitive decline in Thai elders.

Mild cognitive impairment; Dementia; Alzheimer disease; Disability; White matter lesions; Thailand