Relevance of Minor Neuropsychological Deficits in Patients With Subjective Cognitive Decline

Neurology. 2023 Nov 21;101(21):e2185-e2196. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000207844. Epub 2023 Oct 11.


Background and objectives: To determine the relevance of minor neuropsychological deficits (MNPD) in patients with subjective cognitive decline (SCD) with regard to CSF levels of Alzheimer disease (AD) biomarkers, cognitive decline, and clinical progression to mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Methods: This study included patients with clinical SCD and SCD-free, healthy control (HC) participants with available baseline CSF and/or longitudinal cognitive data from the observational DZNE Longitudinal Cognitive Impairment and Dementia study. We defined MNPD as a performance of at least 0.5SD below the mean on a demographically adjusted total score derived from the Consortium to Establish a Registry for Alzheimer's Disease neuropsychological assessment battery. We compared SCD patients with MNPD and those without MNPD with regard to CSF amyloid-β (Aβ)42/Aβ40, phosphorylated tau (p-tau181), total tau and Aβ42/p-tau181 levels, longitudinal cognitive composite trajectories, and risk of clinical progression to incident MCI (follow-up M ± SD: 40.6 ± 23.7 months). In addition, we explored group differences between SCD and HC in those without MNPD.

Results: In our sample (N = 672, mean age: 70.7 ± 5.9 years, 50% female), SCD patients with MNPD (n = 55, 12.5% of SCD group) showed significantly more abnormal CSF biomarker levels, increased cognitive decline, and a higher risk of progression to incident MCI (HR: 4.07, 95% CI 2.46-6.74) compared with SCD patients without MNPD (n = 384). MNPD had a positive predictive value of 57.0% (95% CI 38.5-75.4) and a negative predictive value of 86.0% (95% CI 81.9-90.1) for the progression of SCD to MCI within 3 years. SCD patients without MNPD showed increased cognitive decline and a higher risk of incident MCI compared with HC participants without MNPD (n = 215; HR: 4.09, 95% CI 2.07-8.09), while AD biomarker levels did not differ significantly between these groups.

Discussion: Our results suggest that MNPD are a risk factor for AD-related clinical progression in cognitively normal patients seeking medical counseling because of SCD. As such, the assessment of MNPD could be useful for individual clinical prediction and for AD risk stratification in clinical trials. However, SCD remains a risk factor for future cognitive decline even in the absence of MNPD.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease* / psychology
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Biomarkers
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / psychology
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • tau Proteins


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Biomarkers
  • tau Proteins