Background: Subjective memory complaints (SMCs) may be the first sign of cognitive decline in aging.
Objective: To examine whether SMCs reported by oneself and informant predict cognitive change over 2 years among at-risk elderly people, and to determine the relationship of different types of SMCs (prospective and retrospective memory complaints) and change in cognitive function.
Methods: This investigation is part of the FINGER project, which is a multicenter randomized controlled trial aiming at preventing cognitive decline in cognitively healthy older adults with increased risk of dementia. A subsample of 303 control-group participants (aged 60-80 years) and their informants (n = 261) rated the frequency of SMCs, using the Prospective and Retrospective Memory Questionnaire (PRMQ). Cognitive performance was measured at baseline and at 1- and 2-year follow-up visits using a neuropsychological test battery.
Results: Participants who reported more SMCs improved less in global cognition, executive function, and memory during the subsequent 2 years in the fully-adjusted analyses. Self-reported retrospective memory problems predicted less improvement in all cognitive domains, whereas prospective memory problems did not. Informant-reported memory problems were not linked to subsequent change in cognition.
Conclusion: Our results indicate that self-reported SMCs, measured with PRMQ, predict future cognitive change in several cognitive domains. By contrast, reports by informants were not linked to changes in cognition. Among cognitively healthy at-risk elderly individuals, the persons themselves observe more easily problems relevant for their future cognitive trajectories than their informants.
Keywords: Aging; cognition; dementia; memory.