Associations between Cortical Thickness and Metamemory in Alzheimer's Disease

Brain Imaging Behav. 2022 Aug;16(4):1495-1503. doi: 10.1007/s11682-021-00627-0. Epub 2022 Jan 22.


Metacognitive deficits affect Alzheimer's disease (AD) patient safety and increase caregiver burden. The brain areas that support metacognition are not well understood. 112 participants from the Imaging and Genetic Biomarkers for AD (ImaGene) study underwent comprehensive cognitive testing and brain magnetic resonance imaging. A performance-prediction paradigm was used to evaluate metacognitive abilities for California Verbal Learning Test-II learning (CVLT-II 1-5) and delayed recall (CVLT-II DR); Visual Reproduction-I immediate recall (VR-I Copy) and Visual Reproduction-II delayed recall (VR-II DR); Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure Copy (Rey-O Copy) and delayed recall (Rey-O DR). Vertex-wise multivariable regression of cortical thickness was performed using metacognitive scores as predictors while controlling for age, sex, education, and intracranial volume. Subjects who overestimated CVLT-II DR in prediction showed cortical atrophy, most pronounced in the bilateral temporal and left greater than right (L > R) frontal cortices. Overestimation of CVLT-II 1-5 prediction and DR performance in postdiction showed L > R associations with medial, inferior and lateral temporal and left posterior cingulate cortical atrophy. Overconfident prediction of VR-I Copy performance was associated with right greater than left medial, inferior and lateral temporal, lateral parietal, anterior and posterior cingulate and lateral frontal cortical atrophy. Underestimation of Rey-O Copy performance in prediction was associated with atrophy localizing to the temporal and cingulate areas, and in postdiction, with diffuse cortical atrophy. Impaired metacognition was associated to cortical atrophy. Our results indicate that poor insight into one's cognitive abilities is a pervasive neurodegenerative feature associated with AD across the cognitive spectrum.

Keywords: Awareness; Biomarkers; Cortical atrophy; MRI; Memory; Metacognition.

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease* / pathology
  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Brain / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Metacognition*
  • Neuropsychological Tests