A New Framework for Dementia Nomenclature

Ronald C. Petersen*, Sandra Weintraub, Marwan Sabbagh, Jason Karlawish, Charles H. Adler, Peggye Dilworth-Anderson, Lori Frank, Cynthia Huling Hummel, Angela Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Importance: Nomenclature in the field of neurodegenerative diseases presents a challenging problem. Inconsistent use of terms such as Alzheimer disease and dementia has compromised progress in clinical care, research, and development of therapeutics. Dementia-associated stigma further contributes to inconsistent and imprecise language. The result is a lack of clarity that produces confusion with patients and the general public and presents communication challenges among researchers. Therefore, the Advisory Council on Research, Care, and Services of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease authorized a committee to make recommendations for improvement. Objective: To establish a systematic neurodegenerative disease framework for information collection and communication to standardize language usage for research, clinical, and public health purposes. Evidence Review: The Dementia Nomenclature Initiative organized into 3 major stakeholder working groups: clinicians, researchers, and the public (including individuals living with dementia and family caregivers). To inform the work, the initiative completed a narrative literature review of dementia nomenclature evolution over the last century across the PubMed, CINAHL, PsycInfo, and Scopus databases (January 1, 2000, through July 31, 2020). Initiative working groups used the results as a foundation for understanding current challenges with dementia nomenclature and implications for research, clinical practice, and public understanding. The initiative obtained additional input via focus groups with individuals living with dementia and caregivers, with separate groups for race and ethnicity (American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian or Pacific Islander, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, and White) as an initial assessment of the meaning of dementia-related terms to these groups. Findings: From working group deliberations, the literature review, and focus group input, the initiative developed a framework clearly separating the clinical syndromic presentation experienced by affected individuals from possible underlying pathophysiologies. In the framework, domains of clinical impairment, such as cognitive, behavioral, motor, and other neurologic features, are graded by level of impairment between none and severe. Next, biomarker information describes underlying disease processes, explains the syndrome, and identifies possible disease labels: Alzheimer disease, frontotemporal degeneration, dementia with Lewy bodies, or vascular cognitive impairment dementia. Conclusions and Relevance: The Dementia Nomenclature Initiative established a framework to guide communication about cognitive impairment among older adults. Wider testing and refinement of the framework will subsequently improve the information used in communicating about cognitive impairment and the way in which the information is used in clinical, research, and public settings..

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1364-1370
Number of pages7
JournalJAMA Neurology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 11 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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