Predictors of cognitive decline in those with subjective memory complaint

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    [Truncated abstract] Background: Dementia, largely due to Alzheimer's disease (AD), is a major public health problem. The early identification of disease is an important challenge for clinicians because treatment of AD is now available. A simple and accurate means of stratifying risk for AD and identifying early disease is needed so that risk factor modification and treatment can occur optimally. To date, despite many attempts, an accurate means of standardising an approach to the assessment of subtle cognitive symptoms has not been developed. A subjective complaint of poor memory has been identified as a possible marker for underlying brain disease. This study examines the utility of neuropsychological scores, homocysteine levels, APOE genotyping and brain imaging as predictors of cognitive decline in individuals with subjective memory complaint (SMC). Method Eighty subjects with SMC were recruited from memory clinics and the community (MC: 1). Forty-two control subjects were also examined (MC: 0). CAMDEX was used to describe baseline clinical features. The CAMCOG was used as a global test of cognition and was administered annually for four years. At baseline, neuropsychological testing was administered. Cranial CT scanning, measurement of plasma homocysteine and APOE genotyping were completed. Categorical variables were analysed using chi-square according to Pearson's method. Continuous data was analysed using Student's t-tests and Mann-Whitney tests. A logistic regression model was used to identify independent contributors to the presence of memory complaint. Participants were then matched for age, gender and time to follow-up (up for three years) to determine longitudinal predictors of cognitive decline. ... Baseline CAMCOG scores were greater in the control group (MC:0 = 98.3 ? 2.8, MC:1 94.2 ? 5.5, Z ?4.46, p 0.000). There were no differences in neuropsychological scores, concentration of total plasma homocysteine, APOE genotype or brain scan measurements. Using the Wald stepwise selection method, logistic regression could not be established due to non-convergence regardless of whether or not the continuous variables were re-coded into dichotomous variables. A matching process that created 32 pairs of controls/subjects allowed follow-up analysis. The controls showed significant improvement with time on the CAMCOG unlike subjects (mean ? SD, controls 1.5 ?-3.0, Z - 2.61, p 0.01, subjects 0.2 ? 3.2, Z ? 0.24, p 0.81). The logistic regression analysis showed that group membership could not be defined by any single independent variable. When group membership was abandoned and those with stable scores were compared to those who declined no clear meaningful independent predictors of decline apart from age were identified. Conclusions: Methodological issues such as small sample size and inadequate follow up duration were identified that may have precluded identification of predictive factors for cognitive decline. The results indicate that complaints of memory problems are not associated with established risk factors for Alzheimer's disease and fail to predict objective cognitive decline over three years. Future studies should continue trying to identify robust predictors of cognitive decline in later life.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2008


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