Cognitive impairment 18 years before clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer disease dementia

Neurology. 2015 Sep 8;85(10):898-904. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000001774. Epub 2015 Jun 24.


Objective: To examine the relation of performance on brief cognitive tests to development of clinically diagnosed Alzheimer disease (AD) dementia over the following 18 years in a sample of African Americans and European Americans.

Methods: A composite cognitive test score based on tests of episodic memory, executive function, and global cognition was constructed in a prospective population-based sample of 2,125 participants (55% African American and 61% female) aged 65 years and older residing in 4 Chicago neighborhoods. Time before AD dementia diagnosis was categorized into 6 groups corresponding to data collection periods: 0.1-0.9, 1.0-3.9, 4.0-6.9, 7.0-9.9, 10.0-12.9, and 13.0-17.9 years.

Results: Of 2,125 participants without clinical AD dementia, 442 (21%) developed clinical AD dementia over 18 years of follow-up. Lower composite cognitive test scores were associated with the development of AD dementia over the duration of the study. The magnitude of association between composite cognitive test score and development of AD dementia increased from an odds ratio of 3.39 (95% confidence interval 1.72, 6.67; p < 0.001) at 13.0-17.9 years to 9.84 (95% confidence interval 7.41, 13.06; p < 0.001) at 0.1-0.9 years, per SD increment. These associations were consistently larger among European Americans than among African Americans. Performance on individual cognitive tests of episodic memory, executive function, and global cognition also significantly predicted the development of AD dementia, with associations exhibiting a similar trend over 18 years.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that cognitive impairment may manifest in the preclinical phase of AD dementia substantially earlier than previously established.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis*
  • Alzheimer Disease / ethnology
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology*
  • Black or African American / ethnology
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale
  • Chicago / ethnology
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / ethnology
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Population Surveillance / methods
  • Prospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • White People / ethnology
  • White People / psychology*