Dementia in Swedish Twins (HARMONY)

Molecular genetic studies have identified a number of mutations and other markers associated with early age of onset Alzheimer's disease.

Project description

Most cases of late age of onset dementia are considered sporadic, that is, without a clear genetic basis. Twin studies provide a unique opportunity to characterize the importance of genetic factors for dementia. Discordant twin pairs additionally provide the opportunity to study other putative risk factors which controlling for genetic propensity to develop the disease.
In the first wave of the Study of Dementia in Swedish Twins, all SATSA twins born before 1935 have been screened for dementia symptoms. Over 190 suspects have been identified. This pilot study has been expanded to the entire registry in the study known as HARMONY. All twins aged 65 and older were invited to participate in a computer assisted telephone screening interview. A total of 13,519 individuals completed the interview (response rate = 75.9%). Dementia screening was based on the TELE, which includes the 10-item MSQ, other cognitive items (counting backwards, recalling three words, and similarities), and questions about health and daily functioning; or on Blessed scores obtained from a proxy interview. Among those screened, 1565 were positive for suspicion of dementia and were referred for complete clinical evaluation by a physician and a nurse. Once the preliminary in-person evaluation suggested that the suspected case was demented, the twin partner was also invited for an identical clinical work-up. Response rate for clinical evaluations is 71.4%. Approximately half of those visited for evaluation have been diagnosed as demented according to DSM-IV criteria, of which two-thirds have Alzheimer's disease. An extensive assessment of probable risk exposure is also included. Longitudinal follow-up is yet another feature of the study. Association studies with candidate genes are also being performed.

Further details

Further details of the HARMONY study and instruments are available at the website for the Section for Clinical Research in Aging and Psychology, University of Southern California.

Project leader


Inst. of Gerontology; Jönköping, Sweden; Univ. of Southern California; Div. Geriatric Medicine, NVS, KI


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