Considering learning disabilities and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder when assessing for neurodegenerative disease

Purpose of review

When evaluating an older adult for a possible neurodegenerative disease, the role of premorbid specific learning disabilities or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) should be considered. These neurodevelopmental conditions can manifest as lifelong weaknesses and variability in cognitive functions that complicate assessment of cognitive decline. There is also accumulating evidence that certain neurodevelopmental disorders may entail greater risk for specific neurodegenerative disorders.

Recent findings

We describe clinical cases where diagnosis of neurodegenerative disease was influenced by preexisting neurodevelopmental disorders. We also present a questionnaire to assist with screening for premorbid learning disabilities and ADHD in older adults.


This article offers clinical guidance for practicing neurologists in the identification and assessment of neurodevelopmental disorders in older adult patients, which informs management and treatment. Consideration of lifetime functioning has become increasingly important with research linking neurodevelopmental disabilities to increased risk of specific neurodegenerative diseases.

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