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Subjective cognitive impairment could be precursor of further decline

The cognitive health of older adults with “subjective cognitive impairment” (SCI) declined faster and further than that of people without SCI over a period of years, a recent study found. The study suggests that very early, subtle changes in memory in people who test as cognitively normal might predict more serious types of impairment.

In SCI, people complain of memory problems but score in the normal range on tests of cognition. Complaints of cognitive impairment are commonly heard from older adults. In this NIA-supported study, 213 cognitively healthy subjects at least 40 years old—166 with SCI and 47 without—were followed for an average of 7 years after taking a series of baseline neuropsychological tests. Over that time, 54 percent of people with SCI progressed to mild cognitive impairment or probable dementia, compared with only 15 percent of people without SCI. The people with SCI declined faster, too, with an average time to decline of 5.3 years vs. 8.8 years for those without SCI.

The study investigators, Dr. Barry Reisberg of the New York University School of Medicine and colleagues, suggest further studies be done of SCI in broader at-risk populations to assess the possibility of using SCI to identify individuals for prevention studies.

Reference: Reisberg, B., et al. Outcome over seven years of healthy adults with and without subjective cognitive impairment. Alzheimer's & Dementia. 2010. 6(1):11-24.