Psychological stress, cognitive decline and the development of dementia in amnestic mild cognitive impairment

Sci Rep. 2020 Feb 27;10(1):3618. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-60607-0.


To determine the relationship between psychological stress with cognitive outcomes in a multi-centre longitudinal study of people with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) we assessed three parameters of psychological stress (Recent Life Changes Questionnaire (RLCQ); the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and salivary cortisol) and their relationship with rates of cognitive decline over an 18 month follow up period and conversion to dementia over a 5.5 year period. In 133 aMCI and 68 cognitively intact participants the PSS score was higher in the aMCI compared with control group but neither the RLCQ scores nor salivary cortisol measures were different between groups. In the aMCI group the RLCQ and the PSS showed no significant association with cognitive function at baseline, cognitive decline or with conversion rates to dementia but high salivary cortisol levels were associated with RLCQ scores and poorer cognitive function at baseline and lower rates of cognitive decline. No relationship was found between salivary cortisol levels and conversion rate to dementia. We conclude that psychological stress as measured by the RLCQ or PSS was not associated with adverse cognitive outcomes in an aMCI population and hypothesise that this may reflect diminished cortisol production to psychological stress as the disease progresses.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Amnesia / psychology*
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology*
  • Dementia / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Stress, Psychological