Internal Consistency Over Time of Subjective Cognitive Decline: Drawing Preclinical Alzheimer's Disease Trajectories

J Alzheimers Dis. 2018;66(1):173-183. doi: 10.3233/JAD-180307.


Background: Early intervention to prevent, or delay, the transition from healthy cognition to cognitive impairment in older adults is an important goal. In this way, it is critical to find sensitive, reproducible, and early markers to use low cost methods for the detection of that transition. One of those early markers for symptomatic manifestation of AD is subjective cognitive decline (SCD).

Objective: To examine the internal consistency of the concept of SCD and to evaluate its clinical significance on the progression through the continuum of AD.

Methods: 1,091 cognitively healthy individuals from the Vallecas Project cohort were followed for three years. Cognitive complaints were systematically collected and analyzed along with clinical data. All participants were classified in three groups at every visit based on specific features of their complaints.

Results: Concordance analyses showed a good agreement in longitudinal classification of SCD. The Multi-state Markov Model highlighted a unidirectional transition from the status of no cognitive complaints to SCD. Interestingly, a more severe condition of SCD, namely SCD Plus, showed the highest risk of progression to mild cognitive impairment.

Conclusions: The concept of SCD is stable over time when it is operationally defined and consistently assessed. It provides not only a fast identification of individuals at higher risk of future mild cognitive impairment, but also it allows us to track longitudinal trajectories.

Keywords: Aging; Alzheimer’s disease; cognitive symptoms; dementia; mild cognitive impairment; subjective cognitive decline.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis*
  • Alzheimer Disease / epidemiology
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnosis*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / epidemiology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology*
  • Disease Progression*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Independent Living / psychology
  • Independent Living / trends
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests / standards*
  • Time Factors