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We investigated the course of decline in multiple cognitive domains in non-demented subjects from a memory clinic setting, and compared pattern, onset and magnitude of decline between subjects who progressed to Alzheimer's disease (AD) dementia at follow-up and subjects who did not progress.
In this retrospective cohort study 819 consecutive non-demented patients who visited the memory clinics in Maastricht or Amsterdam between 1987 and 2010 were followed until they became demented or for a maximum of 10 years (range 0.5–10 years). Differences in trajectories of episodic memory, executive functioning, verbal fluency, and information processing speed/attention between converters to AD dementia and subjects remaining non-demented were compared by means of random effects modelling.
The cognitive performance of converters and non-converters could already be differentiated seven (episodic memory) to three (verbal fluency and executive functioning) years prior to dementia diagnosis. Converters declined in these three domains, while non-converters remained stable on episodic memory and executive functioning and showed modest decline in verbal fluency. There was no evidence of decline in information processing speed/attention in either group.
Differences in cognitive performance between converters to AD dementia and subjects remaining non-demented could be established 7 years prior to diagnosis for episodic memory, with verbal fluency and executive functioning following several years later. Therefore, in addition to early episodic memory decline, decline in executive functions may also flag incident AD dementia. By contrast, change in information processing speed/attention seems less informative.
To investigate trajectories of cognitive decline in patients with different types of dementia compared to controls in a longitudinal study.
In 199 patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD), 10 with vascular dementia (VaD), 26 with dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), 20 with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), 15 with language variant frontotemporal dementia (lvFTD) and 112 controls we assessed five cognitive domains: memory, language, attention, executive and visuospatial functioning, and global cognition (Mini-Mental State Examination, MMSE). All subjects had at least two neuropsychological assessments (median 2, range 2–7). Neuropsychological data were standardized into z scores using baseline performance of controls as reference. Linear mixed models (LMMs) were used to estimate baseline cognitive functioning and cognitive decline over time for each group, adjusted for age, gender and education.
At baseline, patients with dementia performed worse than controls in all cognitive domains (p < 0.05) except visuospatial functioning, which was only impaired in patients with AD and DLB (p < 0.001). During follow-up, patients with AD declined in all cognitive domains (p < 0.001). DLB showed decline in every cognitive domain except language and global cognition. bvFTD showed rapid decline in memory, language, attention and executive functioning (all p < 0.01) whereas visuospatial functioning remained fairly stable. lvFTD declined mostly in attention and executive functioning (p < 0.01). VaD showed decline in attention and executive functioning.
We show cognitive trajectories of different types of dementia. These estimations of natural disease course have important value for the design of clinical trials as neuropsychological measures are increasingly being used as outcome measures.
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