Hippocampal changes are associated with increased age and cognitive decline due to mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer's disease (AD). These associations are often observed only in the later stages of decline. This study examined if hippocampal grading, a method measuring local morphological similarity of the hippocampus to cognitively normal controls (NCs) and AD participants, is associated with cognition in NCs, subjective cognitive decline (SCD), early (eMCI), late (lMCI), and AD. A total of 1620 Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative participants were examined (495 NC, 262 eMCI, 545 lMCI, and 318 AD) because they had baseline MRIs and Alzheimer's disease Assessment Scale (ADAS-13) and Clinical Dementia Rating-Sum of Boxes (CDR-SB) scores. In a sub-analysis, NCs with episodic memory scores (as measured by Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, RAVLT) were divided into those with subjective cognitive decline (SCD+; 103) and those without (SCD-; 390). Linear regressions evaluated the influence of hippocampal grading on cognition in preclinical and prodromal AD. Lower global cognition, as measured by increased ADAS-13, was associated with hippocampal grading: NC (p < .001), eMCI (p < .05), lMCI (p < .05), and AD (p = .01). Lower global cognition as measured increased CDR-SB was associated with hippocampal grading in lMCI (p < .05) and AD (p < .001). Lower RAVLT performance was associated with hippocampal grading in SCD- (p < .05) and SCD+ (p < .05). These findings suggest that hippocampal grading is associated with global cognition in NC, eMCI, lMCI, and AD. Early changes in episodic memory during pre-clinical AD are associated with changes in hippocampal grading. Hippocampal grading may be sensitive to progressive changes early in the disease course.
Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; cognitive decline; cognitive functioning; hippocampal grading; mild cognitive impairment; older adults; subjective cognitive decline.
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