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Objectives: Although subjective cognitive complaints (SCC) are an integral component of the diagnostic criteria for mild cognitive impairment (MCI), previous findings indicate they may not accurately reflect cognitive ability. Within the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, we investigated longitudinal change in the discrepancy between self- and informant-reported SCC across empirically derived subtypes of MCI and normal control (NC) participants. Methods: Data were obtained for 353 MCI participants and 122 “robust” NC participants. Participants were classified into three subtypes at baseline via cluster analysis: amnestic MCI, mixed MCI, and cluster-derived normal (CDN), a presumptive false-positive group who performed within normal limits on neuropsychological testing. SCC at baseline and two annual follow-up visits were assessed via the Everyday Cognition Questionnaire (ECog), and discrepancy scores between self- and informant-report were calculated. Analysis of change was conducted using analysis of covariance. Results: The amnestic and mixed MCI subtypes demonstrated increasing ECog discrepancy scores over time. This was driven by an increase in informant-reported SCC, which corresponded to participants’ objective cognitive decline, despite stable self-reported SCC. Increasing unawareness was associated with cerebrospinal fluid Alzheimer’s disease biomarker positivity and progression to Alzheimer’s disease. In contrast, CDN and NC groups over-reported cognitive difficulty and demonstrated normal cognition at all time points. Conclusions: MCI participants’ discrepancy scores indicate progressive underappreciation of their evolving cognitive deficits. Consistent over-reporting in the CDN and NC groups despite normal objective cognition suggests that self-reported SCC do not predict impending cognitive decline. Results demonstrate that self-reported SCC become increasingly misleading as objective cognitive impairment becomes more pronounced. (JINS, 2018, 24, 842–853)
Subjective cognitive complaints are a criterion for the diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), despite their uncertain relationship to objective memory performance in MCI. We aimed to examine self-reported cognitive complaints in subgroups of the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) MCI cohort to determine whether they are a valuable inclusion in the diagnosis of MCI or, alternatively, if they contribute to misdiagnosis. Subgroups of MCI were derived using cluster analysis of baseline neuropsychological test data from 448 ADNI MCI participants. Cognitive complaints were assessed via the Everyday Cognition (ECog) questionnaire, and discrepancy scores were calculated between self- and informant-report. Cluster analysis revealed Amnestic and Mixed cognitive phenotypes as well as a third Cluster-Derived Normal subgroup (41.3%), whose neuropsychological and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) Alzheimer’s disease (AD) biomarker profiles did not differ from a “robust” normal control group. This cognitively intact phenotype of MCI participants overestimated their cognitive problems relative to their informant, whereas Amnestic MCI participants with objective memory impairment underestimated their cognitive problems. Underestimation of cognitive problems was associated with positive CSF AD biomarkers and progression to dementia. Overall, there was no relationship between self-reported cognitive complaints and objective cognitive functioning, but significant correlations were observed with depressive symptoms. The inclusion of self-reported complaints in MCI diagnostic criteria may cloud rather than clarify diagnosis and result in high rates of misclassification of MCI. Discrepancies between self- and informant-report demonstrate that overestimation of cognitive problems is characteristic of normal aging while underestimation may reflect greater risk for cognitive decline. (JINS, 2014, 20, 1–12)
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