Telephone assessment of cognitive function in the late-onset Alzheimer's disease family study

Arch Neurol. 2010 Jul;67(7):855-61. doi: 10.1001/archneurol.2010.129.


Background: Administration of cognitive test batteries by telephone has been shown to be a valid and cost-effective means of assessing cognition, but it remains relatively uncommon in epidemiological research.

Objectives: To develop composite cognitive measures and assess how much of the variability in their scores is associated with mode of test administration (ie, in person or by telephone).

Design: Cross-sectional cohort study.

Setting: Late-Onset Alzheimer's Disease Family Study conducted at 18 centers across the United States.

Participants: A total of 1584 persons, 368 with dementia, from 646 families.

Main outcome measures: Scores on composite measures of memory and cognitive function derived from a battery of 7 performance tests administered in person (69%) or by telephone (31%) by examiners who underwent a structured performance-based training program with annual recertification.

Results: Based in part on the results of a factor analysis of the 7 tests, we developed summary measures of working memory, declarative memory, episodic memory, semantic memory, and global cognition. In linear regression analyses, mode of test administration accounted for less than 2% of the variance in the measures. In mixed-effects models, variability in cognitive scores due to center was small relative to variability due to differences between individuals and families.

Conclusions: In epidemiologic research on aging and Alzheimer disease, assessment of cognition by telephone has little effect on performance and provides operational flexibility and a means of reducing both costs and missing data.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / complications*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Family Health*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods*
  • Psychometrics / methods
  • Telephone*

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