Structure and correlates of cognitive aging in a narrow age cohort

Psychol Aging. 2014 Jun;29(2):236-249. doi: 10.1037/a0036187.


Aging-related changes occur for multiple domains of cognitive functioning. An accumulating body of research indicates that, rather than representing statistically independent phenomena, aging-related cognitive changes are moderately to strongly correlated across domains. However, previous studies have typically been conducted in age-heterogeneous samples over longitudinal time lags of 6 or more years, and have failed to consider whether results are robust to a comprehensive set of controls. Capitalizing on 3-year longitudinal data from the Lothian Birth Cohort of 1936, we took a longitudinal narrow age cohort approach to examine cross-domain cognitive change interrelations from ages 70 to 73 years. We fit multivariate latent difference score models to factors representing visuospatial ability, processing speed, memory, and crystallized ability. Changes were moderately interrelated, with a general factor of change accounting for 47% of the variance in changes across domains. Change interrelations persisted at close to full strength after controlling for a comprehensive set of demographic, physical, and medical factors including educational attainment, childhood intelligence, physical function, APOE genotype, smoking status, diagnosis of hypertension, diagnosis of cardiovascular disease, and diagnosis of diabetes. Thus, the positive manifold of aging-related cognitive changes is highly robust in that it can be detected in a narrow age cohort followed over a relatively brief longitudinal period, and persists even after controlling for many potential confounders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / genetics
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Apolipoproteins E / genetics
  • Cardiovascular Diseases
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Hypertension
  • Intelligence / physiology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Scotland
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Space Perception / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology


  • Apolipoproteins E