Early-Stage Alzheimer Primer: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, and Assessment


What are the steps for diagnosing Alzheimer disease? Are you familiar with diagnostic criteria and assessment tools? In this webcast, walk through the process with an expert.

Target Audience

Health care professionals who specialize in treating AD, including neurologists, geriatric psychiatrists, and neurology nurse practitioners and physician assistants

Learning Objective

Identify patients with early-stage Alzheimer disease


Alzheimer disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia; in the United States alone, approximately 5.8 million people are living with the disease. This slide presentation offers education about AD pathogenesis, trajectory, and diagnostic criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders, Fifth Edition and from the National Institute on Aging–Alzheimer’s Association. To diagnose mild cognitive impairment and early-stage AD, clinicians should employ a stepwise process that includes the following: cognitive screening, laboratory assessments, structural imaging of the brain, full neuropsychologic assessment (if warranted), and biomarker confirmation.

From the Series: Diagnosis of Early-Stage Alzheimer Disease and How Emerging Treatments May Address Unmet Needs
To cite: Apostolova L. Early-stage Alzheimer primer: pathophysiology, diagnosis, and assessment. J Clin Psychiatry. 2021;82(3):BG20044WC1C.
To share: https://doi.org/10.4088/JCP.BG20044WC1C
© Copyright 2021 Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc.

Activity summary
Available credit: 
  • 0.50 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™
  • 0.50 Participation
Activity opens: 
Activity expires: 

Support Statement

Supported by an educational grant from Biogen.

Learning Objective

After completing this educational activity, you should be able to:

  • Identify patients with early-stage Alzheimer disease

Release, Review, and Expiration Dates

This brief report activity was published in April 2021 and is eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ through April 30, 2023. The latest review of this material was March 2021.

Statement of Need and Purpose

Clinicians are not providing a diagnosis to over half of individuals who meet criteria for Alzheimer disease (AD) and other dementias. When they do give a diagnosis, clinicians are often not effectively communicating with patients and care partners regarding the illness and next steps. Additionally, prompt treatment initiation does not occur in a substantial number of patients newly diagnosed with AD. Clinicians need education on early recognition of AD using a stepwise process that includes patient observation, informant report, use of assessment tools, and additional testing when appropriate. They also need guidance for sharing the diagnosis of AD along with education and next steps, including support services. Clinicians need awareness about addressing the shortcomings of current treatments with patients and families. Although current therapies are not disease modifying, emerging agents may offer new hope. This activity was designed to meet the needs of participants in CME activities provided by the CME Institute of Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc., who have requested information on Alzheimer disease.

Disclosure of Off-Label Usage

Dr Apostolova has determined that, to the best of her knowledge, no investigational information about pharmaceutical agents or device therapies that is outside US Food and Drug Administration–approved labeling has been presented in this activity.

Review Process

The faculty members agreed to provide a balanced and evidence-based presentation and discussed the topics and CME objectives during the planning sessions. The faculty’s submitted content was validated by CME Institute staff, and the activity was evaluated for accuracy, use of evidence, and fair balance by the Chair and a peer reviewer who is without conflict of interest.


This activity is derived from the teleconference series “Diagnosis of Early-Stage Alzheimer Disease and How Emerging Treatments May Address Unmet Needs,” which was held in August and October 2020 and supported by an educational grant from Biogen. The opinions expressed herein are those of the faculty and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the CME provider and publisher or the commercial supporter.

Faculty Affiliation

Liana Apostolova, MD, MSc
Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis

Financial Disclosure

The faculty for this CME activity and the CME Institute staff were asked to complete a statement regarding all relevant personal and financial relationships between themselves or their spouse/partner and any commercial interest. The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) defines a commercial interest as any entity producing, marketing, re-selling, or distributing health care goods or services consumed by, or used on, patients. The ACCME defines relevant financial relationships as financial relationships in any amount occurring within the past 12 months that create a conflict of interest. The CME Institute has resolved any conflicts of interest that were identified. No member of the CME Institute staff reported any relevant personal financial relationships. Faculty financial disclosure is as follows:

Liana Apostolova, MD, MSc, is a consultant and a member of the speakers/advisory board for Biogen; has received grant/research support from AVID Radiopharmaceuticals and Life Molecular Imaging; and is a stock shareholder of Semiring.

The Chair for this activity, Anna D. Burke, MD, has no personal affiliations or financial relationships with any commercial interest to disclose relative to the activity. 

Accreditation Statement

The CME Institute of Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc., is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

Credit Designation

The CME Institute of Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc., designates this enduring material for a maximum of 0.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Note: The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) accept certificates of participation for educational activities certified for AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ from organizations accredited by the ACCME.

To obtain credit for this activity, study the material and complete the CME Posttest and Evaluation.

Available Credit

  • 0.50 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™
  • 0.50 Participation


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