Cognitive endpoints as disease biomarkers: optimizing the congruency of preclinical models to the clinic

Curr Opin Investig Drugs. 2008 Jul;9(7):696-706.


Cognition is a complex set of processes, including attention, learning and memory, that refers to the capacity to encode, consolidate, store and retrieve recent and remotely stored fact (semantic) and experience-based (episodic) memory. The development of cognitive enhancers is of particular importance to society and the pharmaceutical industry, as cognitive dysfunctions are observed across a wide range of neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders; however, developing such therapeutics has proven difficult. There is poor congruency between the abundance of positive results observed in animal studies compared with clinical outcome. For example, from 1982 to 2002 there was a 6000% increase in studies on cognitive processing in rodents that had little or no impact on the outcome of phase II and III clinical trials. The effects of therapeutics on models of cognition that demonstrate the potential to improve preclinical-to-clinical congruency, focusing on attention, impulsivity and episodic memory, are summarized in this review. Changes in attention, impulsivity and episodic memory are tractable 'disease biomarkers' that correlate with the disease phenotypes that are potential therapeutic targets. In the context of the development of cognitive enhancing drugs, one of the major goals of translational medicine is to improve the congruency between preclinical models and clinical results. Improved translatability could improve discovery, validation and implementation of biomarkers to inform clinical outcome studies and decision making, and to establish proof-of-concept for efficacy and safety based on targeted mechanisms of action.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology
  • Association Learning
  • Biomarkers*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology*
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Endpoint Determination
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology
  • Recurrence


  • Biomarkers