Bilinguals outperform monolinguals on measures of executive control, but it is not known how bilingualism introduces these advantages. To address this question, we investigated whether language-control failures increase with aging-related declines in executive control. Eighteen younger and 18 older Spanish-English bilinguals completed a verbal-fluency task, in which they produced words in 18 categories (9 in each language), and a flanker task. Performance on both tasks exhibited robust effects of aging, but cross-language and within-language errors on the verbal-fluency task differed in a number of ways. Within-language errors occurred relatively often and decreased with higher levels of education in both younger and older bilinguals. In contrast, cross-language intrusions (e.g., inadvertently saying an English word on a Spanish-language trial) were rarely produced, were not associated with education level, and were strongly associated with flanker-task errors in older but not younger bilinguals. These results imply that executive control plays a role in maintaining language selection, but they also suggest the presence of independent forces that prevent language-selection errors.
aging; bilingualism; lexical access; attention; frontal lobe
The current study investigated the relationship between bilingual language proficiency and onset of probable Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in 44 Spanish-English bilinguals at the UCSD Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. Degree of bilingualism along a continuum was measured using Boston Naming Test (BNT) scores in each language. Higher degrees of bilingualism were associated with increasingly later age-of-diagnosis (and age of onset of symptoms), but this effect was driven by participants with low education level (a significant interaction between years of education and bilingualism) most of whom (73%) were also Spanish-dominant. Additionally, only objective measures (i.e., BNT scores), not self-reported degree of bilingualism, predicted age-of-diagnosis even though objective and self-reported measures were significantly correlated. These findings establish a specific connection between knowledge of two languages and delay of AD onset, and demonstrate that bilingual effects can be obscured by interactions between education and bilingualism, and by failure to obtain objective measures of bilingualism. More generally, these data support analogies between the effects of bilingualism and “cognitive reserve” and suggest an upper limit on the extent to which reserve can function to delay dementia.
Memory tests are sensitive to early identification of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) but less useful as the disease advances. However, assessing particular types of recognition memory may better characterize dementia severity in later stages of AD. We sought to examine patterns of recognition memory deficits in individuals with AD and mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Memory performance and global cognition data were collected from participants with AD (n=37), MCI (n=37), and cognitively intact older adults (normal controls, NC; n=35). One-way analyses of variance (ANOVAs) examined differences between groups on yes/no and forced-choice recognition measures. Individuals with amnestic MCI performed worse than NC and nonamnestic MCI participants on yes/no recognition, but were comparable on forced-choice recognition. AD patients were more impaired across yes/no and forced-choice recognition tasks. Individuals with mild AD (≥120 Dementia Rating Scale, DRS) performed better than those with moderate-to-severe AD (<120 DRS) on forced-choice recognition, but were equally impaired on yes/no recognition. There were differences in the relationships between learning, recall, and recognition performance across groups. Although yes/no recognition testing may be sensitive to MCI, forced-choice procedures may provide utility in assessing severity of anterograde amnesia in later stages of AD. Implications for assessment of insufficient effort and malingering are also discussed.
Recognition memory; Alzheimer’s disease; Mild cognitive impairment; Dementia severity; Neuropsychology
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of older adults at risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) by virtue of their cognitive (i.e., mild cognitive impairment [MCI]) and/or genetic (i.e., apolipoprotein E [APOE] ε4 allele) status demonstrate divergent brain response patterns during memory encoding across studies. Using arterial spin labeling MRI, we examined the influence of AD risk on resting cerebral blood flow (CBF) as well as the CBF and blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) signal response to memory encoding in the medial temporal lobes (MTL) in 45 older adults (29 cognitively normal [14 APOE ε4 carriers and 15 noncarriers]; 16 MCI [8 APOE ε4 carriers, 8 noncarriers]). Risk groups were comparable in terms of mean age, years of education, gender distribution, and vascular risk burden. Individuals at genetic risk for AD by virtue of the APOE ε4 allele demonstrated increased MTL resting state CBF relative to ε4 noncarriers, whereas individuals characterized as MCI showed decreased MTL resting state CBF relative to their cognitively normal peers. For percent change CBF, there was a trend toward a cognitive status by genotype interaction. In the cognitively normal group, there was no difference in percent change CBF based on APOE genotype. In contrast, in the MCI group, APOE ε4 carriers demonstrated significantly greater percent change in CBF relative to ε4 noncarriers. No group differences were found for BOLD response. Findings suggest that abnormal resting state CBF and CBF response to memory encoding may be early indicators of brain dysfunction in individuals at risk for developing AD.
Apolipoprotein E; cerebral blood flow; functional; hippocampus; magnetic resonance imaging; memory; mild cognitive impairment
Elevated pulse pressure (PP) is associated with cognitive decline and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in older adults, although the mechanisms behind these associations remain unclear. To address this question, we examined whether antemortem late-life PP elevation predicted vascular or AD pathology in autopsy-confirmed AD patients. Sixty-five elderly patients (mean age 74.2 years) clinically diagnosed with possible or probable AD underwent neuropsychological testing and blood pressure examinations. Postmortem histopathological measures of cerebrovascular disease (CVD) and AD neuropathology were later obtained on these same patients. We expected that antemortem PP elevation, but not standard blood pressure measures such as systolic or diastolic blood pressure, would predict the autopsy-based presence of CVD, and possibly AD pathology, in elderly AD patients. Results demonstrated that antemortem PP elevation was associated with the presence and severity of CVD at autopsy. For every 5 mmHg increase in antemortem PP there was an estimated 36% increase in the odds of having CVD at autopsy. Additionally, PP accounted for 12% of variance in CVD severity. No significant associations were present for cerebral amyloid angiopathy or Braak and Braak staging of the severity of AD pathology. Other standard blood pressure measures also did not significantly predict neuropathology. The association between antemortem PP and CVD at autopsy suggests that in older adults with AD, PP elevation may increase the risk of CVD. These findings may have treatment implications since some antihypertensive medications specifically address the pulsatile component of blood pressure (e.g., renin-angiotensin system inhibitors, calcium channel blockers).
Alzheimer’s disease; blood pressure; cerebrovascular disease; pulse pressure
Neuropsychological assessment has featured prominently over the past 30 years in the characterization of dementia associated with Alzheimer disease (AD). Clinical neuropsychological methods have identified the earliest, most definitive cognitive and behavioral symptoms of illness, contributing to the identification, staging, and tracking of disease. With increasing public awareness of dementia, disease detection has moved to earlier stages of illness, at a time when deficits are both behaviorally and pathologically selective. For reasons that are not well understood, early AD pathology frequently targets large-scale neuroanatomical networks for episodic memory before other networks that subserve language, attention, executive functions, and visuospatial abilities. This chapter reviews the pathognomonic neuropsychological features of AD dementia and how these differ from “normal,” age-related cognitive decline and from other neurodegenerative diseases that cause dementia, including cortical Lewy body disease, frontotemporal lobar degeneration, and cerebrovascular disease.
Alzheimer disease (AD) targets neuroanatomical networks for episodic memory before those for language, executive functions, and visuospatial abilities. Therefore, amnestic dementia is strongly associated with early AD pathology.
Decline in executive function has been noted in the prodromal stage of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and may presage more global cognitive declines. In this prospective longitudinal study, five measures of executive function were used to predict subsequent global cognitive decline in initially nondemented older adults. Of 71 participants, 15 demonstrated significant decline over a 1-year period on the Dementia Rating Scale (Mattis, 1988) and the remaining participants remained stable. In the year before decline, the decline group performed significantly worse than the no-decline group on two measures of executive function: the Color-Word Interference Test (CWIT; inhibition/switching condition) and Verbal Fluency (VF; switching condition). In contrast, decliners and non-decliners performed similarly on measures of spatial fluency (Design Fluency switching condition), spatial planning (Tower Test), and number-letter switching (Trail Making Test switching condition). Furthermore, the CWIT inhibition-switching measure significantly improved the prediction of decline and no-decline group classification beyond that of learning and memory measures. These findings suggest that some executive function measures requiring inhibition and switching provide predictive utility of subsequent global cognitive decline independent of episodic memory and may further facilitate early detection of dementia.
Executive functions; Global cognition; Switching; Prodromal Alzheimer’s disease; Mild cognitive impairment; Prediction
Word retrieval deficits are common in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and are thought to reflect a degradation of semantic memory. Yet, the nature of semantic deterioration in AD and the underlying neural correlates of these semantic memory changes remain largely unknown. We examined the semantic memory impairment in AD by investigating the neural correlates of category knowledge (e.g., living vs. nonliving) and featural processing (global vs. local visual information). During event-related fMRI, 10 adults diagnosed with mild AD and 22 cognitively normal older adults named aloud items from three categories for which processing of specific visual features has previously been dissociated from categorical features. Results showed widespread group differences in the categorical representation of semantic knowledge in several language-related brain areas. For example, the right inferior frontal gyrus showed selective brain response for nonliving items in the CN group but living items in the AD group. Additionally, the AD group showed increased brain response for word retrieval irrespective of category in Broca’s homologue in the right hemisphere and rostral cingulate cortex bilaterally, which suggests greater recruitment of frontally-mediated neural compensatory mechanisms in the face of semantic alteration.
dementia; semantic memory; language; fMRI; word retrieval; category-specific deficit
Neuropsychological studies have shown that patients with Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) perform worse than patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) on tests of conceptualization and verbal fluency, but better on tests of memory and visuospatial functions. However, it is not known if these distinct cognitive profiles are robust enough to be detected using a relatively brief dementia screening instrument such as the Mattis Dementia Rating Scale (MDRS). To address this issue, the MDRS subscale profiles of patients with autopsy-confirmed FTD (n = 17) or AD (n = 34) were compared. Results showed distinct cognitive profiles in which FTD patients performed worse than AD patients on the Initiation/Perseveration and Conceptualization subscales while performing better on the Memory and Construction subscales. The distinct subscale profiles correctly classified 85% of AD patients and 76% of FTD patients. Profiles were maintained in a subset of mildly-to-moderately demented patients (MDRS ≥ 105) and correctly classified 89% of these patients. In addition, FTD patients (mean = 30.0 points/year) declined faster than AD patients (mean = 14.8 points/year) on MDRS total and specific subscale scores. These results suggest that the MDRS may be a useful adjunct to other clinical measures for distinguishing FTD from AD and tracking the progression of the disorder.
Frontotemporal dementia; Alzheimer’s disease; Mattis Dementia Rating Scale; Rate of progression; Cognitive profile; Functional impairment
Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) is a common neurodegenerative disorder of the aging population characterized by α–synuclein accumulation in cortical and subcortical regions. Although neuropathology in advanced age has been investigated in dementias such as Alzheimer Disease (AD), severity of the neuropathology in the oldest old with DLB remains uncharacterized. For this purpose we compared characteristics of DLB cases divided into three age groups 70–79, 80–89 and ≥90 years (oldest old). Neuropathological indicators and levels of synaptophysin were assessed and correlated with clinical measurements of cognition and dementia severity. These studies showed that frequency and severity of DLB was lower in 80–89 and ≥90 year cases compared to 70–79 year old group but cognitive impairment did not vary with age. The extent of AD neuropathology correlated with dementia severity only in the 70–79 year group, while synaptophysin immunoreactivity more strongly associated with dementia severity in the older age group in both DLB and AD. Taken together these results suggest that the oldest old with DLB might represent a distinct group.
Cognition; Neuropsychological assessment
Forty nondemented older adults who were divided into two groups on the basis of their cognitive status (MCI: n=20; Normal Control: n=20) underwent diffusion tensor imaging, and estimates of fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) were obtained for the genu and splenium of the corpus callosum. Results demonstrated the following: (1) group comparisons revealed that splenium FA was significantly lower in MCI participants than in NC participants, despite no differences in gross morphometry or hippocampal volumes; (2) in the overall sample, higher stroke risk was associated with lower white matter integrity, particularly in the genu; (3) increased stroke risk was more strongly associated with poorer splenium FA in those with MCI than in normal elderly; and (4) splenium FA significantly predicted performance on verbal memory (adjusting for the effects of age, education, and whole brain volume). Findings demonstrate a relationship between increased vascular burden and white matter changes, and they support the possibility that posterior white matter pathology may contribute to the development of MCI-related cognitive changes.
MCI; mild cognitive impairment; stroke risk; Framingham; aging; white matter; diffusion tensor imaging; DTI
Recent language studies in aging and dementia provide two complementary lines of evidence that: (1) measures of semantic knowledge and word-finding ability show declines comparable to those of episodic memory, and greater impairment than executive function measures, during the prodromal period of Alzheimer’s disease and (2) cognitively intact older adult carriers of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) ε4 allele also demonstrate poorer object naming than their low-risk peers. Given that possible changes in the neural substrates of word retrieval (e.g., Broca’s area and fusiform gyrus) in at-risk adults may signal impending cognitive decline and serve as a prodromal marker of AD, we examined whether APOE ε4 carriers exhibit changes in brain response in regions subserving word retrieval and semantic knowledge. Eleven cognitively intact APOE ε4 older adults and 11 age, education, and family history of AD-matched APOE ε3 adults named aloud photographs of animals, tools, and vehicles during event-related fMRI. Results showed that, in the face of equivalent naming accuracy, APOE ε4 adults demonstrated more widespread brain response with greater signal change in the left fusiform gyrus, bilateral medial prefrontal cortex, and right perisylvian cortex. Findings are discussed in the context of possible compensatory mechanisms invoked to maintain performance in those at genetic risk for AD.
apolipoprotein E; language; fMRI; word retrieval; confrontation naming
We sought to investigate whether APOE genotype is associated with unique profiles of cognitive functioning during early life. School-aged children (N = 147) received standardized achievement tests, the Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure Test (Copy Condition; RCFT-CC), assessment of hand dominance for writing, and buccal swab testing to determine their APOE genotype. Significant differences were found on the RCFT-CC, with ε2-positive children performing worse on this measure relative to both ε3/3 (p = .032) and ε4-positive children (p = .018). Further, a higher prevalence of left-hand dominance for writing was observed among ε2-positive children (29.2%) relative to ε3/3 (8.9%) and ε4-positive children (6.1%; p = .012), although this finding did not account for the observed group differences on the RCFT-CC. Findings raise the possibility that in childhood, the ε2 allele may be associated with (a) decreased functioning in certain cognitive domains; and (b) factors associated with atypical hemispheric dominance. Results may be consistent with the theory of antagonistic pleiotropy, which suggests that APOE may have different protective effects at different developmental stages.
Cognitive aging; neurodevelopment; apolipoprotein E; developmental neuropsychology; dementia; Alzheimer’s disease
For over 50 years, cognitive psychologists and neuropsychologists have relied almost exclusively on a method for computing semantic clustering on list-learning tasks (recall-based formula) that was derived from an outdated assumption about how learning occurs. A new procedure for computing semantic clustering (list-based formula) was developed for the CVLT-II to correct the shortcomings of the traditional method. In the present study we compared the clinical utility of the traditional recall-based method versus the new list-based method using results from the original CVLT administered to 87 patients with Alzheimer’s disease and 86 matched normal control participants. Logistic regression and score distribution analyses indicated that the new list-based method enhances the detection of differences in semantic-clustering ability between the groups.
Learning; Memory; Neuropsychology; CVLT
Some studies of elderly individuals with the ApoE-e4 genotype noted subtle deficits on tests of attention such as the WAIS-R Digit Span subtest, but these findings have not been consistently reported. One possible explanation for the inconsistent results could be the presence of subgroups of e4+ individuals with asymmetric cognitive profiles (i.e., significant discrepancies between verbal and visuospatial skills). Comparing genotype groups with individual, modality-specific tests might obscure subtle differences between verbal and visuospatial attention in these asymmetric subgroups. In this study, we administered the WAIS-R Digit Span and WMS-R Visual Memory Span subtests to 21 nondemented elderly e4+ individuals and 21 elderly e4- individuals matched on age, education, and overall cognitive ability. We hypothesized that a) the e4+ group would show a higher incidence of asymmetric cognitive profiles when comparing Digit Span/Visual Memory Span performance relative to the e4- group; and (b) an analysis of individual test performance would fail to reveal differences between the two subject groups. Although the groups’ performances were comparable on the individual attention span tests, the e4+ group showed a significantly larger discrepancy between digit span and spatial span scores compared to the e4- group. These findings suggest that contrast measures of modality-specific attentional skills may be more sensitive to subtle group differences in at-risk groups, even when the groups do not differ on individual comparisons of standardized test means. The increased discrepancy between verbal and visuospatial attention may reflect the presence of “subgroups” within the ApoE-e4 group that are qualitatively similar to asymmetric subgroups commonly associated with the earliest stages of AD.
The current study tested the assumption that bilinguals with dementia regress to using primarily the dominant language. Spanish-English bilinguals with probable Alzheimer's disease (AD; n=29), and matched bilingual controls (n=42) named Boston Naming Test pictures in their dominant and nondominant languages. Surprisingly, differences between patients and controls were larger using dominant-language than nondominant-language naming scores, and bilinguals with AD were either more likely than controls (in English-dominant bilinguals), or equally likely (in Spanish-dominant bilinguals), to name some pictures in the nondominant language that they could not produce in their dominant language. These findings suggest that dominant language testing may provide the best assessment of language deficits in bilingual AD, and argue against the common notion that the nondominant language is particularly susceptible to dementia. The greater vulnerability of the dominant language may reflect the increased probability of AD affecting richer semantic representations associated with dominant compared to nondominant language names.
Cognitive-discrepancy analysis has been shown to be a useful technique for detecting subtle cognitive deficits in normal-functioning elderly individuals who are genetically at-risk for Alzheimer disease (AD). However, studies that have used cognitive-discrepancy measures to date have used retrospective or cross-sectional designs, and the utility of this approach to predict cognitive decline has not been examined in a prospective investigation.
San Diego, CA, Veterans Administration Hospital.
Twenty-four normal-functioning elderly individuals participated in the study, with 16 subjects exhibiting no change in their Dementia Rating Scale (DRS) scores over an 1-year period (Stable Group), and 8 subjects exhibiting a decline in DRS scores over the 1-year period (Decline group).
A cognitive-discrepancy measure isolating cognitive switching was computed that contrasted performance on a new higher-level task of executive functioning (a Stroop/Switching measure) relative to a composite measure of lower-level Stroop conditions.
a) In the year before their cognitive changes, the Decline group exhibited a significantly larger cognitive-discrepancy (Stroop/Switching versus lower-level Stroop conditions) score compared with a control (Stable) group; and b) the cognitive-discrepancy measure was superior to APOE genotype in predicting DRS decline.
Cognitive-discrepancy analysis isolating a component executive function ability not only seems to be a useful tool for identifying individuals at risk for cognitive deficits, but also shows promise in predicting individuals who may show subtle cognitive decline over time.
Cognitive discrepancies; aging; Alzheimer disease; executive functioning
To identify neuropsychological and psychosocial factors predictive of amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment (aMCI) among a group of 94 nondemented older adults, we employed a novel nonlinear multivariate classification statistical method called Optimal Data Analysis (ODA) in a dataset collected annually for 3 years. Performance on measures of memory and visuomotor processing speed or symptoms of depression in year 1 predicted aMCI status by year 2. Performance on a measure of learning at year 1 predicted aMCI status at year 3. No other measures significantly predicted incidence of aMCI at years 2 and 3. Results support the utility of multiple neuropsychological and psychosocial measures in the diagnosis of aMCI, and the present model may serve as a testable hypothesis for prospective investigations of the development of aMCI.
Amnestic mild cognitive impairment; aMCI; MCI; Neuropsychology; Memory; Visuomotor processing speed; D-KEFS; Depression; Optimal data analysis
Neural circuits mediating repetition effect for semantically congruous words on functional MRI were investigated in seventeen normal elderly (mean age = 70). Participants determined if written words were semantically congruent (50% probability) with spoken statements. Subsequent cued-recall revealed robust explicit memory only for congruous items (83% versus 8% for incongruous). Event-related BOLD responses to New > Old congruous words were found in the left > right cingulate and fusiform gyri, left parahippocampal cortex, middle and inferior frontal gyri (IFG). A group with above-median subsequent recall had markedly more widespread BOLD responses than a Low-Recall subgroup, with larger responses in the left medial temporal lobe (LMTL), IFG, and bilateral cingulate gyri. The magnitude of LMTL activation (New–Old) correlated with subsequent cued-recall, while the spatial extent of LMTL activation (New > Old) correlated with recall and recognition. Both magnitude and spatial extent of left fusiform activation correlated with subsequent recall/recognition. A neural circuit of left-hemisphere brain regions, many identified as P600 generators by invasive electrophysiological studies, was activated by New > Old congruous words, likely mediating successful verbal encoding.
Aging; Memory; Neuroimaging; Learning; Semantic; Language; Medial temporal lobe; Fusiform gyrus
This study compared verbal learning and memory in patients with autopsy-confirmed dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) and patients with Parkinson's disease with dementia (PDD). Twenty-four DLB patients, 24 PDD patients, and 24 normal comparison participants were administered the California Verbal Learning Test. The three groups were matched on demographic variables and the two patient groups were matched on the Mattis Dementia Rating Scale. The results indicated that DLB patients recalled less information than PDD patients on all but one recall measure and displayed a more rapid rate of forgetting. In contrast, the PDD patients committed a greater percent of perseveration errors than the DLB patients. The two groups did not differ in the percentage of recall intrusion errors or any measures of recognition. A discriminant function analysis (DFA) using short delay cued recall, percent perseveration errors, and list b recall, differentiated the DLB and PDD groups with 81.3% accuracy. The application of the DFA algorithm to another sample of 42 PDD patients resulted in a 78.6% correct classification rate. The results suggest that, despite equivalent levels of general cognitive impairment, patients with DLB or PDD exhibit a different pattern of verbal learning and memory deficits.
Changes in the cerebrovascular system due to age or disease can significantly alter the blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) signal and complicate its interpretation. The simultaneous acquisition of arterial spin labeling (ASL) and BOLD data represents a useful technique to more fully characterize the neurovascular underpinnings of functional brain response to cognition. We conducted a functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) study of episodic memory encoding to investigate whether age is related to cerebral blood flow (CBF) and BOLD response in the medial temporal lobe (MTL). Results demonstrated a significant reduction in resting state CBF in older compared to young adults. Conversely, older adults showed significantly increased CBF but not BOLD response in the MTL during picture encoding relative to young adults. Correlations between CBF response and cognition were demonstrated whereas associations with BOLD were not observed. Stroke risk was associated with both CBF and BOLD response. Results suggest that aging effects on CBF and BOLD responses to encoding are dissociable and that cerebrovascular alterations contribute to findings of age-related differences.
Aging; Episodic memory; Learning; Picture encoding; Functional MRI; fMRI; ASL; CBF; BOLD; Medial temporal lobe
Impairments in certain aspects of attention have frequently been reported in Parkinson's disease (PD), including reduced inhibition of return (IOR). Recent evidence suggests that IOR can occur when attention is directed at objects or locations, but previous investigations of IOR in PD have not systematically compared these two frames of reference. The present study compared the performance of 18 nondemented patients with PD and 18 normal controls on an IOR task with two conditions. In the “object-present” condition, objects surrounded the cues and targets so that attention was cued to both a spatial location and to a specific object. In the “object-absent” condition, surrounding objects were not presented so that attention was cued only to a spatial location. When participants had to rely on space-based cues, PD patients demonstrated reduced IOR compared to controls. In contrast, when objects were present in the display and participants could use object-based cues, PD patients exhibited normal IOR. These results suggest that PD patients are impaired in inhibitory aspects of space-based attention, but are able to overcome this impairment when their attention can be directed at object-based frames of reference. This dissociation supports the view that space-based and object-based components of attention involve distinct neurocognitive processes.
inhibition of return; Parkinson's disease; attention; caudate nucleus; space; working memory; visual
We present neuropsychological data from an 81-year-old individual who was followed over a six-year period, initially as a healthy control participant. She performed above age-adjusted cutoff scores for impairment on most neuropsychological tests, including learning and memory measures, until the final assessment when she received a diagnosis of probable Alzheimer's disease (AD). Despite generally normal scores on individual cognitive tests, her cognitive profile revealed increasingly large cognitive discrepancies when contrasting verbal versus visuospatial tasks, and complex versus basic-level tasks. The present case provides intriguing evidence that cognitive-discrepancy measures could improve our ability to detect subtle changes in cognition at the earliest, preclinical stages of AD.
Alzheimer's disease; Neuropsychology; Cognition; Discrepancy; Preclinical
The literature provides evidence of a strong relationship between greater stress and memory loss, but few studies have examined this relationship with both variables measured over time. The authors sought to determine the prospective association between subjective and objective measures of chronic stress and rate of memory decline in cognitively normal and mildly impaired older adults.
This longitudinal study was conducted at a university research center and included 61 cognitively normal subjects and 41 subjects with mild cognitive impairment (ages 65–97). Fifty-two subjects were followed for up to 3 years (mean=2 years) and received repeated stress and cognitive assessments. Exclusion criteria were dementia, significant medical or psychiatric conditions, and medication use (e.g., corticosteroids) that might affect cortisol level or cognitive functioning. The main outcome measure was a regression-based slope reflecting performance change on tests of global cognition and episodic memory as a function of baseline diagnosis, recent life events, and salivary cortisol. Examiners were blind to stress ratings and cortisol levels at the time of cognitive testing.
Higher event-based stress ratings collected over the follow-up period were associated with faster cognitive decline in subjects with mild cognitive impairment but not in cognitively normal subjects. In contrast, higher cortisol levels were associated with slower cognitive decline in subjects with mild cognitive impairment but not in cognitively normal subjects.
Chronic stress affects cognitive functioning differently in cognitively normal subjects and those with mild cognitive impairment. Cortisol, while likely to have neurotoxic effects over time, may enhance cognitive functioning in older adults compromised by existing cognitive deficits.
The present study compared the performance of individuals with Huntington's disease (HD) and Alzheimer's disease (AD) on three types of California Verbal Learning Test–Second Edition (CVLT-II) recognition discriminability indices (RDI): Source, Novel, and Total. The HD and AD groups did not differ significantly on Source RDI (all 16 targets versus the 16 previously presented, List B, distractors). However, HD patients performed significantly better than AD patients on Total RDI (all 16 targets versus all 32 distractors) and Novel RDI (all 16 targets versus 16 new distractors). Implications of these findings on the differentiation of the memory disorders associated with HD and AD are discussed.