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The Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol (HCAP) describes an assessment battery and a family of population-representative studies measuring neuropsychological performance. We describe the factorial structure of the HCAP battery in the US Health and Retirement Study (HRS).
The HCAP battery was compiled from existing measures by a cross-disciplinary and international panel of researchers. The HCAP battery was used in the 2016 wave of the HRS. We used factor analysis methods to assess and refine a theoretically driven single and multiple domain factor structure for tests included in the HCAP battery among 3,347 participants with evaluable performance data.
For the eight domains of cognitive functioning identified (orientation, memory [immediate, delayed, and recognition], set shifting, attention/speed, language/fluency, and visuospatial), all single factor models fit reasonably well, although four of these domains had either 2 or 3 indicators where fit must be perfect and is not informative. Multidimensional models suggested the eight-domain model was overly complex. A five-domain model (orientation, memory delayed and recognition, executive functioning, language/fluency, visuospatial) was identified as a reasonable model for summarizing performance in this sample (standardized root mean square residual = 0.05, root mean square error of approximation = 0.05, confirmatory fit index = 0.94).
The HCAP battery conforms adequately to a multidimensional structure of neuropsychological performance. The derived measurement models can be used to operationalize notions of neurocognitive impairment, and as a starting point for prioritizing pre-statistical harmonization and evaluating configural invariance in cross-national research.
To compare longitudinal verbal fluency performance among Latinx Spanish speakers who develop Alzheimer’s disease to those who do not develop dementia in absolute number of words produced on each task and their ratio to combine both scores.
Participants included 833 Latinx Spanish-speaking older adults from a community-based prospective cohort in Manhattan. We performed growth curve modeling to investigate the trajectories of letter and semantic fluency, and their ratio (i.e., ‘semantic index’), between individuals who developed Alzheimer’s disease and those who did not (i.e., controls). The semantic index quantifies the proportion of words generated for semantic fluency in relation to the total verbal fluency performance.
Letter fluency performance did not decline in controls; we observed a linear decline in those who developed Alzheimer’s disease. Semantic fluency declined in both groups and showed an increased rate of change over time in the incident Alzheimer’s disease group; in comparison, the control group had a linear and slower decline. There were no group differences in the longitudinal trajectory (intercept and slope) of the semantic index.
A decline in letter fluency and a more rapid and accelerating decline over time in semantic fluency distinguished people who developed Alzheimer’s disease from controls. Using the semantic index was not a superior marker of incident Alzheimer’s disease compared to examining the two fluency scores individually. Results suggest the differential decline in verbal fluency tasks, when evaluated appropriately, may be useful for early identification of Alzheimer’s disease in Latinx Spanish speakers, a historically understudied population.
To estimate the prevalence of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and its subtypes and investigate the impact of midlife cardiovascular risk factors on late-life MCI among the aging Mexican population.
Analyses included a sample of non-demented adults over the age of 55 living in both urban and rural areas of Mexico (N = 1807). MCI diagnosis was assigned based on a comprehensive cognitive assessment assessing the domains of memory, executive functioning, language, and visuospatial ability. The normative sample was selected by means of the robust norms approach. Cognitive impairment was defined by a 1.5-SD cut-off per cognitive domain using normative corrections for age, years of education, and sex. Risk factors included age, education, sex, rurality, depression, insurance status, workforce status, hypertension, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.
The prevalence of amnestic MCI was 5.9%. Other MCI subtypes ranged from 4.2% to 7.7%. MCI with and without memory impairment was associated with older age (OR = 1.01 [1.01, 1.05]; OR = 1.03 [1.01, 1.04], respectively) and residing in rural areas (OR = 1.49 [1.08, 2.06]; OR = 1.35 [1.03, 1.77], respectively). Depression (OR = 1.07 [1.02, 1.12]), diabetes (OR = 1.37 [1.03, 1.82]), and years of education (OR = 0.94 [0.91, 0.97]) were associated with MCI without memory impairment. Midlife CVD increased the odds of MCI in late-life (OR = 1.76 [1.19, 2.59], which was driven by both midlife hypertension and diabetes (OR = 1.70 [1.18, 2.44]; OR = 1.88 [1.19, 2.97], respectively).
Older age, depression, low education, rurality, and midlife hypertension and diabetes were associated with higher risk of late-life MCI among older adults in Mexico. Our findings suggest that the causes of cognitive impairment are multifactorial and vary by MCI subtype.
The Southern dietary pattern, derived within the REasons for Geographic And Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) cohort, is characterised by high consumption of added fats, fried food, organ meats, processed meats and sugar-sweetened beverages and is associated with increased risk of several chronic diseases. The aim of the present study was to identify characteristics of individuals with high adherence to this dietary pattern. We analysed data from REGARDS, a national cohort of 30 239 black and white adults ≥45 years of age living in the USA. Dietary data were collected using the Block 98 FFQ. Multivariable linear regression was used to calculate standardised beta coefficients across all covariates for the entire sample and stratified by race and region. We included 16 781 participants with complete dietary data. Among these, 34·6 % were black, 45·6 % male, 55·2 % resided in stroke belt region and the average age was 65 years. Black race was the factor with the largest magnitude of association with the Southern dietary pattern (Δ = 0·76 sd, P < 0·0001). Large differences in Southern dietary pattern adherence were observed between black participants and white participants in the stroke belt and non-belt (stroke belt Δ = 0·75 sd, non-belt Δ = 0·77 sd). There was a high consumption of the Southern dietary pattern in the US black population, regardless of other factors, underlying our previous findings showing the substantial contribution of this dietary pattern to racial disparities in incident hypertension and stroke.
Stress is a risk factor for numerous negative health outcomes, including cognitive impairment in late-life. The negative association between stress and cognition may be mediated by depressive symptoms, which separate studies have identified as both a consequence of perceived stress and a risk factor for cognitive decline. Pathways linking perceived stress, depressive symptoms, and cognition may be moderated by sociodemographics and psychosocial resources. The goal of this cross-sectional study was to identify modifying factors and enhance understanding of the mechanisms underlying the stress–cognition association in a racially and ethnically diverse sample of older adults.
A linear regression estimated the association between perceived stress and episodic memory in 578 older adults (Mage = 74.58) in the Washington Heights-Inwood Columbia Aging Project. Subsequent models tested whether depressive symptoms mediated the stress–memory relationship and whether sociodemographics (gender, race, and ethnicity) or perceived control moderated these pathways.
Independent of sociodemographics and chronic diseases, greater perceived stress was associated with worse episodic memory. This relationship was mediated by more depressive symptoms. Higher perceived control buffered the association between stress and depressive symptoms. There was no significant moderation by gender, race, or ethnicity.
Depressive symptoms may play a role in the negative association between perceived stress and cognition among older adults; however, longitudinal analyses and studies using experimental designs are needed. Perceived control is a modifiable psychological resource that may offset the negative impact of stress.
Previous cross-sectional studies have documented associations between positive psychosocial factors, such as self-efficacy and emotional support, and late-life cognition. Further, the magnitudes of concurrent associations may differ across racial and ethnic groups that differ in Alzheimer’s disease risk. The goals of this longitudinal study were to characterize prospective associations between positive psychosocial factors and cognitive decline and explicitly test for differential impact across race and ethnicity.
578 older adults (42% non-Hispanic Black, 31% non-Hispanic White, and 28% Hispanic) in the Washington Heights-Inwood Columbia Aging Project completed cognitive and psychosocial measures from the NIH Toolbox and standard neuropsychological tests over 2.4 years. Latent difference scores were used to model associations between positive psychosocial factors and cognitive decline controlling for baseline cognition, sociodemographics, depressive symptoms, physical health, and other positive psychosocial factors. Multiple-group modeling was used to test interactions between the positive psychosocial factors and race/ethnicity.
Higher NIH Toolbox Friendship scores predicted less episodic memory decline. One standard deviation increase in friendship corresponded to 6 fewer years of memory aging. This association did not significantly differ across racial/ethnic groups.
This longitudinal study provides support for the potential importance of friendships for subsequent episodic memory trajectories among older adults from three ethnic groups. Further study into culturally informed interventions is needed to investigate whether and how friend networks may be targeted to promote cognitive health in late life.
Hispanics/Latinos are the largest and fastest-growing minority population in the United States. To facilitate appropriate outcome assessment of this expanding population, the NIH Toolbox for Assessment of Neurological and Behavioral Function® (NIH Toolbox®) was developed with particular attention paid to the cultural and linguistic needs of English- and Spanish-speaking Hispanics/Latinos.
A Cultural Working Group ensured that all included measures were appropriate for use with Hispanics/Latinos in both English and Spanish. In addition, a Spanish Language Working Group assessed all English-language NIH Toolbox measures for translatability.
Measures were translated following the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy (FACIT) translation methodology for instances where language interpretation could impact scores, or a modified version thereof for more simplified translations. The Spanish versions of the NIH Toolbox Cognition Battery language measures (i.e., Picture Vocabulary Test, Oral Reading Recognition Test) were developed independently of their English counterparts.
The Spanish-language version of the NIH Toolbox provides a much-needed set of tools that can be selected as appropriate to complement existing protocols being conducted with the growing Hispanic/Latino population in the United States.
Objectives: Low educational attainment is a risk factor for more rapid cognitive aging, but there is substantial variability in cognitive trajectories within educational groups. The aim of this study was to determine the factors that confer resilience to memory decline within educational strata. Methods: We selected 2573 initially nondemented White, African American, and Hispanic participants from the longitudinal community-based Washington Heights/Inwood Columbia Aging Project who had at least two visits. We estimated initial memory (intercept) and the rate of memory decline (slope) using up to five occasions of measurement. We classified groups according to the educational attainment groups as low (≤5 years), medium (6–11 years), and high (≥12 years). We used a multiple-group latent growth model to identify the baseline predictors of initial memory performance and rate of memory decline across groups. The model specification considered the influence of demographic, socioeconomic, biomedical, and cognitive variables on the intercept and the slope of memory trajectory. Results: Our results indicated that the three educational groups do not benefit from the same factors. When allowed to differ across groups, the predictors were related to cognitive outcomes in the highly educated group, but we found no unique predictor of cognition for the low educated older adults. Conclusions: These findings highlight that memory-protective factors may differ across older adults with distinct educational backgrounds, and the need to evaluate a broader range of potential resilience factors for older adults with few years of school.
Objectives: The present study examined differences in neurocognitive outcomes among non-Hispanic Black and White stroke survivors using the NIH Toolbox-Cognition Battery (NIHTB-CB), and investigated the roles of healthcare variables in explaining racial differences in neurocognitive outcomes post-stroke. Methods: One-hundred seventy adults (91 Black; 79 White), who participated in a multisite study were included (age: M=56.4; SD=12.6; education: M=13.7; SD=2.5; 50% male; years post-stroke: 1–18; stroke type: 72% ischemic, 28% hemorrhagic). Neurocognitive function was assessed with the NIHTB-CB, using demographically corrected norms. Participants completed measures of socio-demographic characteristics, health literacy, and healthcare use and access. Stroke severity was assessed with the Modified Rankin Scale. Results: An independent samples t test indicated Blacks showed more neurocognitive impairment (NIHTB-CB Fluid Composite T-score: M=37.63; SD=11.67) than Whites (Fluid T-score: M=42.59, SD=11.54; p=.006). This difference remained significant after adjusting for reading level (NIHTB-CB Oral Reading), and when stratified by stroke severity. Blacks also scored lower on health literacy, reported differences in insurance type, and reported decreased confidence in the doctors treating them. Multivariable models adjusting for reading level and injury severity showed that health literacy and insurance type were statistically significant predictors of the Fluid cognitive composite (p<.001 and p=.02, respectively) and significantly mediated racial differences on neurocognitive impairment. Conclusions: We replicated prior work showing that Blacks are at increased risk for poorer neurocognitive outcomes post-stroke than Whites. Health literacy and insurance type might be important modifiable factors influencing these differences. (JINS, 2017, 23, 640–652)
Racially patterned disadvantage in Southern states, especially during the formative years of primary school, may contribute to enduring disparities in adult cognitive outcomes. Drawing on a lifecourse perspective, we examine whether state of school attendance affects cognitive outcomes in older adults and partially contributes to persistent racial disparities. Using data from older African American and white participants in the national Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and the New York based Washington Heights Inwood Cognitive Aging Project (WHICAP), we estimated age-and gender-adjusted multilevel models with random effects for states predicting years of education and cognitive outcomes (e.g., memory and vocabulary). We summarized the proportion of variation in outcomes attributable to state of school attendance and compared the magnitude of racial disparities across states. Among WHICAP African Americans, state of school attendance accounted for 9% of the variance in years of schooling, 6% of memory, and 12% of language. Among HRS African Americans, state of school attendance accounted for 13% of the variance in years of schooling and also contributed to variance in cognitive function (7%), memory (2%), and vocabulary (12%). Random slope models indicated state-level African American and white disparities in every Census region, with the largest racial differences in the South. State of school attendance may contribute to racial disparities in cognitive outcomes among older Americans. Despite tremendous within-state heterogeneity, state of school attendance also accounted for some variability in cognitive outcomes. Racial disparities in older Americans may reflect historical patterns of segregation and differential access to resources such as education. (JINS, 2015, 21, 677–687)
Better performance due to repeated testing can bias long-term trajectories of cognitive aging and correlates of change. We examined whether retest effects differ as a function of individual differences pertinent to cognitive aging: race/ethnicity, age, sex, language, years of education, literacy, and dementia risk factors including apolipoprotein E ε4 status, baseline cognitive performance, and cardiovascular risk. We used data from the Washington Heights-Inwood Columbia Aging Project, a community-based cohort of older adults (n=4073). We modeled cognitive change and retest effects in summary factors for general cognitive performance, memory, executive functioning, and language using multilevel models. Retest effects were parameterized in two ways, as improvement between the first and subsequent testings, and as the square root of the number of prior testings. We evaluated whether the retest effect differed by individual characteristics. The mean retest effect for general cognitive performance was 0.60 standard deviations (95% confidence interval [0.46, 0.74]), and was similar for memory, executive functioning, and language. Retest effects were greater for participants in the lowest quartile of cognitive performance (many of whom met criteria for dementia based on a study algorithm), consistent with regression to the mean. Retest did not differ by other characteristics. Retest effects are large in this community-based sample, but do not vary by demographic or dementia-related characteristics. Differential retest effects may not limit the generalizability of inferences across different groups in longitudinal research. (JINS, 2015, 21, 506–518)
Previous studies showed that control beliefs are more strongly related to global cognition and mortality among adults with low education, providing preliminary evidence that self-efficacy buffers against the negative impact of educational disadvantage on physical and cognitive health. The current study extends these findings to a nationally representative sample of men and women aged 30 to 85 and explores which cognitive domains are most strongly associated with self-efficacy, educational attainment, and their interaction. Data were obtained from 1032 adult (30–85) participants in the United States norming study for the NIH Toolbox. Self-efficacy, executive functioning, working memory, processing speed, episodic memory, and vocabulary were assessed with the NIH Toolbox. Multivariate analysis of covariance and follow-up regressions tested the hypothesis that self-efficacy would be more strongly related to cognitive performance among individuals with lower education, controlling for age, sex, race, ethnicity, education, reading level, testing language, and depressive symptoms. Higher education was associated with higher self-efficacy and better performance on all cognitive tests. Higher self-efficacy was associated with better set-switching and attention/inhibition. Significant self-efficacy by education interactions indicated that associations between self-efficacy and executive abilities were stronger for individuals with lower education. Specifically, individuals with low education but high self-efficacy performed similarly to individuals with high education. This study provides evidence that self-efficacy beliefs buffer against the negative effects of low educational attainment on executive functioning. These results have implications for future policy and/or intervention work aimed at reducing the deleterious effects of educational disadvantage on later cognitive health. (JINS, 2015, 21, 297–304)
We applaud Valian's (2014) thoughtful analysis of the cross-sectional and longitudinal studies that have thus far contributed to our knowledge about the role of bilingualism in cognitive aging. In evaluating the literature as summarized by Valian, we think it is useful to distinguish between the following four research questions and representative analytic approaches: (1) cross-sectional associations between bilingualism and executive function (e.g., regression), (2) longitudinal associations between bilingualism and change in executive function (e.g., growth curve modeling), (3) bilingualism as a predictor of dementia incidence (e.g., time-to-event analysis), and (4) bilingualism as a source of cognitive reserve (e.g., comparisons of brain pathology between bilinguals and monolinguals matched on cognitive performance).
Language facilitates communication and efficient encoding of thought and experience. Because of its essential role in early childhood development, in educational achievement and in subsequent life adaptation, language was included as one of the subdomains in the NIH Toolbox for the Assessment of Neurological and Behavioral Function Cognition Battery (NIHTB-CB). There are many different components of language functioning, including syntactic processing (i.e., morphology and grammar) and lexical semantics. For purposes of the NIHTB-CB, two tests of language—a picture vocabulary test and a reading recognition test—were selected by consensus based on literature reviews, iterative expert input, and a desire to assess in English and Spanish. NIHTB-CB’s picture vocabulary and reading recognition tests are administered using computer adaptive testing and scored using item response theory. Data are presented from the validation of the English versions in a sample of adults ages 20–85 years (Spanish results will be presented in a future publication). Both tests demonstrated high test–retest reliability and good construct validity compared to corresponding gold-standard measures. Scores on the NIH Toolbox measures were consistent with age-related expectations, namely, growth in language during early development, with relative stabilization into late adulthood. (JINS, 2014, 20, 1–10)
This study introduces a special series on validity studies of the Cognition Battery (CB) from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Toolbox for the Assessment of Neurological and Behavioral Function (NIHTB) (Gershon, Wagster et al., 2013) in an adult sample. This first study in the series describes the sample, each of the seven instruments in the NIHTB-CB briefly, and the general approach to data analysis. Data are provided on test–retest reliability and practice effects, and raw scores (mean, standard deviation, range) are presented for each instrument and the gold standard instruments used to measure construct validity. Accompanying papers provide details on each instrument, including information about instrument development, psychometric properties, age and education effects on performance, and convergent and discriminant construct validity. One study in the series is devoted to a factor analysis of the NIHTB-CB in adults and another describes the psychometric properties of three composite scores derived from the individual measures representing fluid and crystallized abilities and their combination. The NIHTB-CB is designed to provide a brief, comprehensive, common set of measures to allow comparisons among disparate studies and to improve scientific communication. (JINS, 2014, 20, 1–12)
Knowledge of the relationship between depressive symptoms and cognition in older adults has primarily come from studies of clinically depressed, functionally impaired or cognitively impaired individuals, and in predominately White samples. Limited minority representation in depression research exposes the need to examine these associations in more ethnic/racially diverse populations. We sought to examine the relationship between depressive symptoms and cognition in a sample of non-demented older African Americans recruited from surrounding U.S. cities of New York, Greensboro, Miami, and Nashville (N=944). Depressive symptoms were evaluated with the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS). Cognition was evaluated with a comprehensive neuropsychological battery. Test scores were summarized into attention, executive function, memory, language, and processing speed composites. Controlling for age, education, reading level, and sex, African American older adults who endorsed more symptoms obtained significantly lower scores on measures of memory, language, processing speed, and executive functioning. Further investigation of the causal pathway underlying this association, as well as potential mediators of the relationship between depressive symptoms and cognitive test performance among older African Americans, such as cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease, may offer potential avenues for intervention. (JINS, 2014, 20, 1–8)
Negative affect (e.g., depression) is associated with accelerated age-related cognitive decline and heightened dementia risk. Fewer studies examine positive psychosocial factors (e.g., emotional support, self-efficacy) in cognitive aging. Preliminary reports suggest that these variables predict slower cognitive decline independent of negative affect. No reports have examined these factors in a single model to determine which best relate to cognition. Data from 482 individuals 55 and older came from the normative sample for the NIH Toolbox for the Assessment of Neurological and Behavioral Function. Negative and positive psychosocial factors, executive functioning, working memory, processing speed, and episodic memory were measured with the NIH Toolbox Emotion and Cognition modules. Confirmatory factor analysis and structural equation modeling characterized independent relations between psychosocial factors and cognition. Psychosocial variables loaded onto negative and positive factors. Independent of education, negative affect and health status, greater emotional support was associated with better task-switching and processing speed. Greater self-efficacy was associated with better working memory. Negative affect was not independently associated with any cognitive variables. Findings support the conceptual distinctness of negative and positive psychosocial factors in older adults. Emotional support and self-efficacy may be more closely tied to cognition than other psychosocial variables. (JINS, 2014, 20, 1–9)
The theory of cognitive reserve attempts to explain why some individuals are more resilient to age-related brain pathology. Efforts to explore reserve have been hindered by measurement difficulties. Reed et al. (2010) proposed quantifying reserve as residual variance in episodic memory performance that remains after accounting for demographic factors and brain pathology (whole brain, hippocampal, and white matter hyperintensity volumes). This residual variance represents the discrepancy between an individual's predicted and actual memory performance. The goals of the present study were to extend these methods to a larger, community-based sample and to investigate whether the residual reserve variable is explained by age, predicts longitudinal changes in language, and predicts dementia conversion independent of age. Results support this operational measure of reserve. The residual reserve variable was associated with higher reading ability, lower likelihood of meeting criteria for mild cognitive impairment, lower odds of dementia conversion independent of age, and less decline in language abilities over 3 years. Finally, the residual reserve variable moderated the negative impact of memory variance explained by brain pathology on language decline. This method has the potential to facilitate research on the mechanisms of cognitive reserve and the efficacy of interventions designed to impart reserve. (JINS, 2013, 19, 1–9)
Few studies have applied multiple imaging modalities to examine cognitive correlates of white matter. We examined the utility of T2-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) -derived white matter hyperintensities (WMH) and diffusion tensor imaging-derived fractional anisotropy (FA) to predict cognitive functioning among older adults. Quantitative MRI and neuropsychological evaluations were performed in 112 older participants from an ongoing study of the genetics of Alzheimer's disease (AD) in African Americans. Regional WMH volumes and FA were measured in multiple regions of interest. We examined the association of regional WMH and an FA summary score with cognitive test performance. Differences in WMH and FA were compared across diagnostic groups (i.e., normal controls, mild cognitive impairment, and probable AD). Increased WMH volume in frontal lobes was associated with poorer delayed memory performance. FA did not emerge as a significant predictor of cognition. White matter hyperintensity volume in the frontal and parietal lobes was increased in MCI participants and more so in AD patients relative to controls. These results highlight the importance of regionally distributed small vessel cerebrovascular disease in memory performance and AD among African American older adults. White matter microstructural changes, quantified with diffusion tensor imaging, appear to play a lesser role in our sample. (JINS, 2012, 18, 414–427)
Although the relationship between education and cognitive status is well-known, evidence regarding whether education moderates the trajectory of cognitive change in late life is conflicting. Early studies suggested that higher levels of education attenuate cognitive decline. More recent studies using improved longitudinal methods have not found that education moderates decline. Fewer studies have explored whether education exerts different effects on longitudinal changes within different cognitive domains. In the present study, we analyzed data from 1014 participants in the Victoria Longitudinal Study to examine the effects of education on composite scores reflecting verbal processing speed, working memory, verbal fluency, and verbal episodic memory. Using linear growth models adjusted for age at enrollment (range, 54–95 years) and gender, we found that years of education (range, 6–20 years) was strongly related to cognitive level in all domains, particularly verbal fluency. However, education was not related to rates of change over time for any cognitive domain. Results were similar in individuals older or younger than 70 at baseline, and when education was dichotomized to reflect high or low attainment. In this large longitudinal cohort, education was related to cognitive performance but unrelated to cognitive decline, supporting the hypothesis of passive cognitive reserve with aging. (JINS, 2011, 17, 1039–1046)