Background: The use of informant rating scales in older adults at risk of dementia may assist with early detection and intervention strategies. This study aims to evaluate whether informants rate greater cognitive change in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) compared to cognitively intact individuals, and to determine the relationship between informant ratings of cognitive change and neuropsychological performance.
Methods: One hundred and nine health-seeking older adults underwent clinical and neuropsychological assessments, and informants completed the Cambridge Behavioral Inventory-Revised (CBI-R). Patients were rated according to MCI criteria, including amnestic and non-amnestic subtypes, or as being cognitively intact. CBI-R ratings were evaluated with respect to MCI diagnosis and neuropsychological performance.
Results: Compared to cognitively intact individuals, informants rated patients with MCI as having significantly more change in overall functioning (p < 0.05) as well as in specific domains of memory and orientation (p < 0.01), everyday skills (p < 0.05), and motivation (p < 0.05), even after controlling for depressive symptom severity. In further analyses, the non-amnestic MCI subgroup only had more informant-rated mood changes compared to the amnestic subgroup. In relation to neuropsychological performance, informant ratings were related to poorer visual memory, verbal learning and memory, language, and psychomotor speed, with correlations ranging from –0.19 to –0.43 (p < 0.05).
Conclusions: These findings indicate that informants are sensitive to subtle early cognitive change in individuals with MCI, and that their ratings are related to objectively measured neuropsychological performance. Thus, the CBI-R may be valuable in assisting early screening and intervention processes.