This study aimed to determine the extent to which cognitive measures can predict progression from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to Alzheimer's type dementia (AD), assess the predictive accuracy of different cognitive domain categories, and determine whether accuracy varies as a function of age and length of follow-up. We systematically reviewed and meta-analyzed data from longitudinal studies reporting sensitivity and specificity values for neuropsychological tests to identify individuals with MCI who will develop AD. We searched articles in Medline, Cochrane, EMBASE, PsycINFO, and the Web of Science. Methodological quality was assessed using the STARDem and QUADAS standards. Twenty-eight studies met the eligibility criteria (2365 participants) and reported predictive values from 61 neuropsychological tests with a 31-month mean follow-up. Values were pooled to provide combined accuracy for 14 cognitive domains. Many domains showed very good predictive accuracy with high sensitivity and specificity values (≥ 0.7). Verbal memory measures and many language tests yielded very high predictive accuracy. Other domains (e.g., executive functions, visual memory) showed better specificity than sensitivity. Predictive accuracy was highest when combining memory measures with a small set of other domains or when relying on broad cognitive batteries. Cognitive tests are excellent at predicting MCI individuals who will progress to dementia and should be a critical component of any toolkit intended to identify AD at the pre-dementia stage. Some tasks are remarkable as early indicators, whereas others might be used to suggest imminent progression.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Cognitive tests; Diagnosis; Mild cognitive impairment; Neuropsychology; Predictive accuracy.