Longitudinal Modeling of Functional Decline Associated with Pathologic Alzheimer's Disease in Older Persons without Cognitive Impairment

J Alzheimers Dis. 2018;62(2):855-865. doi: 10.3233/JAD-170903.


Background: Therapeutic research on Alzheimer's disease (AD) has moved to intercepting the disease at the preclinical phase. Most drugs in late development have focused on the amyloid hypothesis.

Objective: To understand the magnitude of amyloid-related functional decline and to identify the functional domains sensitive to decline in a preclinical AD population.

Methods: Data were from the Religious Orders Study and the Rush Memory and Aging Project. Cognitive decline was measured by a modified version of the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study Preclinical Alzheimer Cognitive Composite. The trajectories of functional decline, as measured by the instrumental and basic activities of daily living, were longitudinally modeled in 484 participants without cognitive impairment at baseline and having both a final clinical and a postmortem neuropathology assessment of AD.

Results: Individuals with different final clinical diagnoses had different trajectories of cognitive and functional decline. Individuals with AD dementia, minor cognitive impairment, and no cognitive impairment had the most, intermediate, and least declines. While individuals with pathologic AD had significantly more cognitive decline over time than those without, the magnitude of difference in functional decline between these two groups was small. Functional domains such as handling finance and handling medications were more sensitive to decline.

Conclusion: Demonstrating the functional benefit of an amyloid-targeting drug represents a significant challenge as elderly people experience functional decline due to a wide range of reasons with limited manifestation attributable to AD neuropathology. More sensitive functional scales focusing on the functional domains sensitive to decline in preclinical AD are needed.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid-β; basic activities of daily living; cognitive decline; functional decline; instrumental activities of daily living; neuropathology; preclinical.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis*
  • Alzheimer Disease / epidemiology
  • Amyloidosis / complications
  • Amyloidosis / pathology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnosis*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / epidemiology
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests