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Attentional impairments are common in dementia with Lewy bodies and its prodromal stage of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) with Lewy bodies (MCI-LB). People with MCI may be capable of compensating for subtle attentional deficits in most circumstances, and so these may present as occasional lapses of attention. We aimed to assess the utility of a continuous performance task (CPT), which requires sustained attention for several minutes, for measuring attentional performance in MCI-LB in comparison to Alzheimer’s disease (MCI-AD), and any performance deficits which emerged with sustained effort.
We included longitudinal data on a CPT sustained attention task for 89 participants with MCI-LB or MCI-AD and 31 healthy controls, estimating ex-Gaussian response time parameters, omission and commission errors. Performance trajectories were estimated both cross-sectionally (intra-task progress from start to end) and longitudinally (change in performance over years).
While response times in successful trials were broadly similar, with slight slowing associated with clinical parkinsonism, those with MCI-LB made considerably more errors. Omission errors were more common throughout the task in MCI-LB than MCI-AD (OR 2.3, 95% CI: 1.1–4.7), while commission errors became more common after several minutes of sustained attention. Within MCI-LB, omission errors were more common in those with clinical parkinsonism (OR 1.9, 95% CI: 1.3–2.9) or cognitive fluctuations (OR 4.3, 95% CI: 2.2–8.8).
Sustained attention deficits in MCI-LB may emerge in the form of attentional lapses leading to omissions, and a breakdown in inhibitory control leading to commission errors.
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