Call our 24 hours, seven days a week helpline at 800.272.3900

24/7 Helpline 800.272.3900

New diagnostic criteria and guidelines for Alzheimer’s disease published for first time in 27 years

New diagnostic criteria and guidelines for Alzheimer’s disease published for first time in 27 years
Share or Print this page
Share or Print this page
April 18, 2011
Share or Print this page

New diagnostic criteria and guidelines for Alzheimer’s disease published for first time in 27 years

New criteria and guidelines for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease have been published — for the first time in 27 years — by three expert workgroups spearheaded by the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The workgroups published four articles including ready-to-use clinical diagnostic criteria for Alzheimer’s disease dementia and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) due to Alzheimer’s. A research agenda was proposed for preclinical Alzheimer’s. The use of biomarkers in Alzheimer’s dementia and MCI due to Alzheimer’s was also proposed as a research agenda only, and is not intended for application in clinical settings at this time.

The articles — collectively, the National Institute on Aging/Alzheimer’s Association Diagnostic Guidelines for Alzheimer’s Disease — expand the definition of Alzheimer’s to include two new phases of the disease: (1) presymptomatic and (2) mildly symptomatic but pre-dementia, along with (3) dementia caused by Alzheimer’s. This reflects current thinking that Alzheimer’s begins creating distinct and measurable changes in the brains of affected people years, perhaps decades, before memory and thinking symptoms are noticeable.

“It is our hope that incorporating scientific knowledge gained and technological advances made over the past quarter century will improve current diagnosis, bring the field closer to earlier detection and treatment and, ultimately, lead to effective disease-modifying therapies,” said William Thies, Ph.D., Alzheimer’s Association chief medical and scientific officer. “Development and publication of these articles is a major landmark in the field. That said, publication of these articles is not yet the end of the process of developing new diagnostic criteria for Alzheimer’s, but is another major step in the process.”

“The new guidelines reflect today’s understanding of how key changes in the brain lead to Alzheimer’s disease pathology and how they relate to the clinical signs of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease dementia,” said Creighton Phelps, Ph.D., program director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Centers Program at the National Institutes of Health. “We are also beginning to be able to detect these changes at a preclinical stage, long before symptoms appear in many people. With further research on biomarkers, as set forth in the new guidelines, we may ultimately be able to predict who is at risk for development of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s dementia, and who would benefit most as interventions are developed.”

The proposed new Alzheimer’s disease diagnostic guidelines were published online today by Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. Hard copy publication is scheduled for the May 2011 issue.

To learn more, visit

National Institute on Aging (NIA)
NIA, part of the National Institutes of Health, a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, leads the federal government effort conducting and supporting research on aging and the health and well being of older people. For information on age-related cognitive change and neurodegenerative disease, go to the NIA’s Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center at For more on health and on aging generally, go to Media contact is Peggy Vaughn, Office of Communications and Public Liaison, at 301.496.1752 or

About the Alzheimer's Association

The Alzheimer’s Association is a worldwide voluntary health organization dedicated to Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Our mission is to lead the way to end Alzheimer's and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's and all other dementia®. Visit or call 800.272.3900.

Keep Up With Alzheimer’s News and Events