MoCA Test: normative and diagnostic accuracy data for seniors with heterogeneous educational levels in Brazil

ABSTRACT The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) has been described as a good tool to detect cognitive impairment. The ideal MoCA cutoff score is still under debate. The aim was to provide MoCA norms and accuracy data for seniors with a lower education level, including illiterates. Methods: Data originated from an epidemiological study conducted in the municipality of Tremembe, Brazil. The Brazilian MoCA test was applied as part of the cognitive assessment in all participants. Of the 630 participants, 385 were classified as cognitively normal (CN) and were included in the normative data set, 110 individuals were diagnosed with dementia and 135 were classified as having cognitive impairment no dementia (CIND). Results: The total scores varied significantly according to age and education among the three diagnostic groups: CN, CIND and dementia (p < 0.001). To distinguish participants with CN from dementia, the best MoCA cutoff was 15 points (sensitivity 90%, specificity 77%) and to differentiate those with CN from CIND, the MoCA cutoff was 19 points (sensitivity 84%, specificity 49%). Those scores varied according to education level. Conclusions: The MoCA test did not have a high accuracy for detecting CIND in the population with a low educational level. Nevertheless, this tool may be used to detect dementia, especially in individuals with more than five years of education, if a lower cutoff score is adopted.