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Logo of bmcgeriBioMed Centralsearchsubmit a manuscriptregisterthis articleBMC Geriatrics
 
BMC Geriatr. 2012; 12: 48.
Published online Aug 31, 2012. doi:  10.1186/1471-2318-12-48
PMCID: PMC3458966
Association of cognition with temporal discounting in community based older persons
Patricia A Boyle,corresponding author1,2 Lei Yu,1,3 Eisuke Segawa,1 Robert S Wilson,1,2,3 Aron S Buchman,1,3 David I Laibson,4 and David A Bennett1,3
1Rush University Medical Center, Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, 600 S. Paulina, Suite 1020B, Chicago, IL, 60612, USA
2Department of Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, USA
3Department of Neurological Sciences, Stanford, USA
4Department of Economics, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA
corresponding authorCorresponding author.
Patricia A Boyle: Patricia_Boyle/at/rush.edu; Lei Yu: Lei_Yu/at/rush.edu; Eisuke Segawa: Eisuke_segawa/at/rush.edu; Robert S Wilson: Robert_S_Wilson/at/rush.edu; Aron S Buchman: Aron_S_Buchman/at/rush.edu; David I Laibson: Dlaibson/at/harvard.edu; David A Bennett: David_A_Bennett/at/rush.edu
Received January 12, 2012; Accepted July 31, 2012.
Abstract
Background
The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that cognitive function is negatively associated with temporal discounting in old age.
Methods
Participants were 388 community-dwelling older persons without dementia from the Rush Memory and Aging Project, an ongoing longitudinal epidemiologic study of aging in the Chicago metropolitan area. Temporal discounting was measured using standard questions in which participants were asked to choose between an immediate, smaller payment and a delayed, larger one. Cognition was measured using a detailed battery including 19 tests. The association between cognition and temporal discounting was examined via mixed models adjusted for age, sex, education, income, and the number of chronic medical conditions.
Results
Descriptive data revealed a consistent pattern whereby older persons with lower cognitive function were more likely to discount greater but delayed rewards compared to those with higher cognitive function. Further, in a mixed effect model adjusted for age, sex, education, income, and chronic medical conditions, global cognitive function was negatively associated with temporal discounting (estimate = −0.45, SE = 0.18, p = 0.015), such that a person with lower cognition exhibited greater discounting. Finally, in subsequent models examining domain specific associations, perceptual speed and visuospatial abilities were associated with temporal discounting, but episodic memory, semantic memory and working memory were not.
Conclusion
Among older persons without dementia, a lower level of cognitive function is associated with greater temporal discounting. These findings have implications regarding the ability of older persons to make decisions that involve delayed rewards but maximize well-being.
Keywords: Aging, Cognition, Temporal discounting, Preferences, Decision making
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