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We evaluated whether memory recall following an extended (1 week) delay predicts cognitive and brain structural trajectories in older adults.
Clinically normal older adults (52–92 years old) were followed longitudinally for up to 8 years after completing a memory paradigm at baseline [Story Recall Test (SRT)] that assessed delayed recall at 30 min and 1 week. Subsets of the cohort underwent neuroimaging (N = 134, mean age = 75) and neuropsychological testing (N = 178–207, mean ages = 74–76) at annual study visits occurring approximately 15–18 months apart. Mixed-effects regression models evaluated if baseline SRT performance predicted longitudinal changes in gray matter volumes and cognitive composite scores, controlling for demographics.
Worse SRT 1-week recall was associated with more precipitous rates of longitudinal decline in medial temporal lobe volumes (p = .037), episodic memory (p = .003), and executive functioning (p = .011), but not occipital lobe or total gray matter volumes (demonstrating neuroanatomical specificity; p > .58). By contrast, SRT 30-min recall was only associated with longitudinal decline in executive functioning (p = .044).
Memory paradigms that capture longer-term recall may be particularly sensitive to age-related medial temporal lobe changes and neurodegenerative disease trajectories.
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