Subjective cognitive decline and β-amyloid burden predict cognitive change in healthy elderly

Neurology. 2017 Nov 7;89(19):2002-2009. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000004627. Epub 2017 Oct 6.


Objective: To assess in a longitudinal study whether subjective cognitive decline (SCD) and brain β-amyloid (Aβ) contribute unique information to cognitive decline.

Methods: One hundred thirty-six healthy elderly from the Berkeley Aging Cohort Study were followed up for a mean of 4 years. SCD and affective measures were generated from the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) with factor analysis on data from a larger set of 347 healthy, nondepressed (GDS <11) elderly individuals. Cognition was summarized with previously validated factor scores. Pittsburgh compound B (PiB)-PET scans were acquired to determine the presence (PiB+) or absence (PiB-) of Aβ pathology. Mixed models were used to assess the independent and interactive effects of SCD, affective features, PiB status, and time on cognition, with adjustment for demographic variables.

Results: SCD score demonstrated good construct validity compared to an existing measure of subjective memory and was partially explained by several lower-order measurements. Mixed models revealed that SCD interacted with PiB status to predict change in episodic memory and global cognition over time, with adjustment for affective features. PiB+ individuals with more severe SCD demonstrated the steepest cognitive decline. Worse SCD predicted faster decline in working memory independently of PiB status. No such effects were seen for affective scores when adjusted for SCD.

Conclusions: PiB+ individuals with SCD are at greatest risk of cognitive decline. Evidence for amyloid alone is not sufficient to indicate risk of rapid cognitive decline in healthy elderly. Effects of GDS on cognitive decline in nondepressed cohorts may be driven by SCD rather than subsyndromal depression.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Aniline Compounds / pharmacokinetics
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment*
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Thiazoles / pharmacokinetics


  • 2-(4'-(methylamino)phenyl)-6-hydroxybenzothiazole
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Aniline Compounds
  • Thiazoles