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Physical and recreational activities are behaviors that may modify risk of late-life cognitive decline. We sought to examine the role of retrospectively self-reported midlife (age 40) physical and recreational activity engagement – and self-reported change in these activities from age 40 to initial study visit – in predicting late-life cognition.
Data were obtained from 898 participants in a longitudinal study of cognitive aging in demographically and cognitively diverse older adults (Age: range = 49–93 years, M = 75, SD = 7.19). Self-reported physical and recreational activity participation at age 40 and at the initial study visit were quantified using the Life Experiences Assessment Form. Change in activities was modeled using latent change scores. Cognitive outcomes were obtained annually (range = 2–17 years) using the Spanish and English Neuropsychological Assessment Scales, which measure verbal episodic memory, semantic memory, visuospatial processing, and executive functioning.
Physical activity engagement at age 40 was strongly associated with cognitive performance in all four domains at the initial visit and with global cognitive slope. However, change in physical activities after age 40 was not associated with cognitive outcomes. In contrast, recreational activity engagement – both at age 40 and change after 40 – was predictive of cognitive intercepts and slope.
Retrospectively self-reported midlife physical and recreational activity engagement were strongly associated with late-life cognition – both level of performance and rate of future decline. However, the data suggest that maintenance of recreational activity engagement (e.g., writing, taking classes, reading) after age 40 is more strongly associated with late-life cognition than continued maintenance of physical activity levels.
Early-life socioeconomic status (SES) and adversity are associated with late-life cognition and risk of dementia. We examined the association between early-life SES and adversity and late-life cross-sectional cognitive outcomes as well as global cognitive decline, hypothesizing that adulthood SES would mediate these associations.
Our sample (N = 837) was a racially and ethnically diverse cohort of non-Hispanic/Latino White (48%), Black (27%), and Hispanic/Latino (19%) participants from Northern California. Participant addresses were geocoded to the level of the census tract, and US Census Tract 2010 variables (e.g., percent with high school diploma) were extracted and combined to create a neighborhood SES composite. We used multilevel latent variable models to estimate early-life (e.g., parental education, whether participant ever went hungry) and adult (participant’s education, main occupation) SES factors and their associations with cross-sectional and longitudinal cognitive outcomes of episodic memory, semantic memory, executive function, and spatial ability.
Child and adult factors were strongly related to domain-specific cognitive intercepts (0.20–0.48 SD per SD of SES factor); in contrast, SES factors were not related to global cognitive change (0.001–0.01 SD per year per SD of SES factor). Adulthood SES mediated a large percentage (68–75%) of the total early-life effect on cognition.
Early-life sociocontextual factors are more strongly associated with cross-sectional late-life cognitive performance compared to cognitive change; this effect is largely mediated through associations with adulthood SES.
This study evaluated: (1) apolipoprotein E (APOE) ϵ4 prevalence among Black, Latino, and White older adults, (2) associations of APOE ϵ4 status with baseline level and change over time of cognitive outcomes across groups, and (3) combined impact of APOE ϵ4 prevalence and magnitude of effect on cognitive decline within each racial/ethnic group.
Participants included 297 White, 138 Latino, and 149 Black individuals from the longitudinal UC Davis Diversity Cohort who had APOE genotyping and ≥2 cognitive assessments. Magnitude of associations of ϵ4 with cognitive baseline and change across racial/ethnic groups was tested with multilevel parallel process longitudinal analyses and multiple group models.
ϵ4 prevalence in Black (46%) and White participants (46%) was almost double that of Latino participants (24%). ϵ4 was associated with poorer baseline episodic memory only in White participants (p = .001), but had a moderately strong association with episodic memory change across all racial/ethnic groups (Blacks= −.061 SD/year, Latinos = −.055,Whites= −.055). ϵ4 association with semantic memory change was strongest in White participants (−.071), intermediate in Latino participants (−.041), and weakest in Black participants (−.022).
Calculated cognitive trajectories across racial/ethnic groups were influenced in an additive manner by ϵ4 prevalence and strength of association with cognitive decline within the group. Group differences in ϵ4 prevalences and associations of ϵ4 with cognition may suggest different pathways from APOE to cognitive decline, and, AD possibly having less salient impact on cognitive decline in non-White participants. Differential effects of APOE on episodic memory and non-memory cognition have important implications for understanding how APOE influences late life cognitive decline.
This study compared the level of education and tests from multiple cognitive domains as proxies for cognitive reserve.
The participants were educationally, ethnically, and cognitively diverse older adults enrolled in a longitudinal aging study. We examined independent and interactive effects of education, baseline cognitive scores, and MRI measures of cortical gray matter change on longitudinal cognitive change.
Baseline episodic memory was related to cognitive decline independent of brain and demographic variables and moderated (weakened) the impact of gray matter change. Education moderated (strengthened) the gray matter change effect. Non-memory cognitive measures did not incrementally explain cognitive decline or moderate gray matter change effects.
Episodic memory showed strong construct validity as a measure of cognitive reserve. Education effects on cognitive decline were dependent upon the rate of atrophy, indicating education effectively measures cognitive reserve only when atrophy rate is low. Results indicate that episodic memory has clinical utility as a predictor of future cognitive decline and better represents the neural basis of cognitive reserve than other cognitive abilities or static proxies like education.
We examined the association of generational status and age at immigration with later life cognitive outcomes in a diverse sample of Latinos and Asian Americans.
Baseline data were obtained from the Kaiser Healthy Aging and Diverse Life Experiences (KHANDLE) study, and a prospective cohort is initiated in 2017.
Older adults in Northern California.
Our cohort consisted of Asians (n = 411) and Latinos (n = 340) who were on average 76 years old (SD = 6.8).
We used multivariable linear regression models to estimate associations between generational status and age at immigration (collapsed into one five-level variable) with measures of verbal episodic memory, semantic memory, and executive function, adjusting for age, gender, race and ethnicity, and own- and parental education.
Generational status and age at immigration were associated with cognitive outcomes in a graded manner. Compared to third-generation or higher immigrants, first-generation immigration in adulthood was associated with lower semantic memory (β = −0.96; 95% CI: −1.12, −0.81) than immigration in adolescence (β = −0.68; 95% CI: −0.96, −0.41) or childhood (β = −0.28; 95% CI: −0.49, −0.06). Moreover, immigration in adulthood was associated with lower executive function (β = −0.63; 95% CI: −0.78, −0.48) than immigration in adolescence (β = −0.49; 95% CI: −0.75, −0.23). Similarly, compared to third-generation individuals, first-generation immigrants had lower executive functioning scores.
Our study supports the notion that sociocontextual influences in early life impact later life cognitive scores. Longitudinal studies are needed to further clarify how immigration characteristics affect cognitive decline.
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.
The Everyday Cognition (ECog) scales measure cognitively based across domains of everyday abilities that are affected early in the course of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. However, the degree to which the ECog may be differentially influenced by ethnic/racial background is unknown. This study evaluates measurement invariance of the ECog across non-Hispanic White (NHW), Black, and Hispanic individuals.
Participants included 1177 NHW, 243 Black, and 216 Hispanic older adults from the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center Cohort who had an ECog. Differential item functioning (DIF) for each ECog domain was evaluated separately for Black and Hispanic participants compared to NHW participants. An iterative multiple group confirmatory factor analysis approach for ordinal scores was used to identify items whose measurement properties differed across groups and to adjust scores for DIF. Adjusted scores were then evaluated to test whether they were more strongly associated with cognitive function (concurrent and longitudinal change in cognition) and brain volumes (measured by brain imaging).
Varying levels, patterns, and impacts of DIF were found across domains and groups. However, the impact of DIF was relatively small, and DIF effects on scores generally were less than one-half standard error of measurement. There were no meaningful differences in associations with cognition and brain injury between DIF adjusted and unadjusted scores.
Varying patterns of DIF were observed across the Black and Hispanic participants across select ECog domains. Overall, DIF effects were relatively small and did not change the relationship between the ECog and other indicators of disease.
The Everyday Compensation scale (EComp) is an informant-rated questionnaire designed to measure cognitively based compensatory strategies that support both everyday memory and executive function in the context of completing instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). Although previous findings provided early support for the usefulness of the initial version of EComp, the current paper further describes the development, refinement, and validation of EComp as a new assessment tool of compensation for IADLs.
Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was used to examine its factor structure. Convergent and predictive validity was evaluated by examining the relationship between EComp and markers of disease, including diagnosis, cognitive change, and trajectories of functional abilities.
CFA supported a general compensation factor after accounting for variance attributable to IADL domain-specific engagement. The clinical groups differed in compensatory strategy use, with those with dementia using significantly fewer compensatory strategies as compared to individuals with normal cognition or mild cognitive impairment. Greater levels of compensation were related to better cognitive functions (memory and executive function) and functional abilities, as well as slower rates of cognitive and functional decline over time. Importantly, higher levels of compensation were associated with less functional difficulties and subsequently slower rate of functional decline independent of the level of cognitive impairment.
Engagement in compensatory strategies among older adults has important implications for prolonging functional independence, even in those with declining cognitive functioning. Results suggest that the revised EComp is likely to be useful in measuring cognitively based compensation in older adults.
This study investigated the relationship between insulin-resistance and constituent components of executive function in a sample of neurologically intact older adult subjects using the homeostasis model assessment (HOMA-IR) and latent factors of working memory, cognitive control and processing speed derived from confirmatory factor analysis. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), mean arterial pressure (MAP), along with body mass index (BMI) and white matter hypointensity (WMH) were used to control for vascular risk factors, adiposity and cerebrovascular injury. The study included 119 elderly subjects recruited from the University of California, San Francisco Memory and Aging Center. Subjects underwent neuropsychological assessment, fasting blood draw and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Partial correlations and linear regression models were used to examine the HOMA-IR-executive function relationship. Pearson correlation adjusting for age showed a significant relationship between HOMA-IR and working memory (rp=−.18; p=.047), a trend with cognitive control (rp=−.17; p=.068), and no relationship with processing speed (rp=.013; p=.892). Linear regression models adjusting for demographic factors (age, education, and gender), LDL, MAP, BMI, and WMH indicated that HOMA-IR was negatively associated with cognitive control (r=−.256; p=.026) and working memory (r=−.234; p=.054). These results suggest a greater level of peripheral insulin-resistance is associated with decreased cognitive control and working memory. After controlling for demographic factors, vascular risk, adiposity and cerebrovascular injury, HOMA-IR remained significantly associated with cognitive control, with working memory showing a trend. These findings substantiate the insulin-resistance-executive function hypothesis and suggest a complex interaction, demonstrated by the differential impact of insulin-resistance on processing speed and specific aspects of executive function. (JINS, 2015, 21, 622–628)
This study describes psychometric properties of the NIH Toolbox Cognition Battery (NIHTB-CB) Composite Scores in an adult sample. The NIHTB-CB was designed for use in epidemiologic studies and clinical trials for ages 3 to 85. A total of 268 self-described healthy adults were recruited at four university-based sites, using stratified sampling guidelines to target demographic variability for age (20–85 years), gender, education, and ethnicity. The NIHTB-CB contains seven computer-based instruments assessing five cognitive sub-domains: Language, Executive Function, Episodic Memory, Processing Speed, and Working Memory. Participants completed the NIHTB-CB, corresponding gold standard validation measures selected to tap the same cognitive abilities, and sociodemographic questionnaires. Three Composite Scores were derived for both the NIHTB-CB and gold standard batteries: “Crystallized Cognition Composite,” “Fluid Cognition Composite,” and “Total Cognition Composite” scores. NIHTB Composite Scores showed acceptable internal consistency (Cronbach’s alphas=0.84 Crystallized, 0.83 Fluid, 0.77 Total), excellent test–retest reliability (r: 0.86–0.92), strong convergent (r: 0.78–0.90) and discriminant (r: 0.19–0.39) validities versus gold standard composites, and expected age effects (r=0.18 crystallized, r=−0.68 fluid, r=−0.26 total). Significant relationships with self-reported prior school difficulties and current health status, employment, and presence of a disability provided evidence of external validity. The NIH Toolbox Cognition Battery Composite Scores have excellent reliability and validity, suggesting they can be used effectively in epidemiologic and clinical studies. (JINS, 2014, 20, 1–11)
The objective of this study is to evaluate the construct validity of the NIH Neurobehavioral Toolbox Cognitive Health Battery (NIHTB-CHB) in adults. Confirmatory factor analysis was used to evaluate the dimensional structure underlying the NIHTB-CHB and Gold Standard tests chosen to serve as concurrent validity criteria for the NIHTB-CHB. These results were used to evaluate the convergent and discriminant validity of the NIHTB-CHB in adults ranging from 20 to 85 years of age. Five dimensions were found to explain the correlations among NIHTB-CHB and Gold Standard tests: Vocabulary, Reading, Episodic Memory, Working Memory and Executive Function/Processing Speed. NIHTB-CHB measures and their Gold Standard analogues defined factors in a pattern that broadly supported the convergent and discriminant validity of the NIHTB-CHB tests. This 5-factor structure was found to be invariant across 20–60 year old (N=159) and 65–85 year old (N=109) age groups that were included in the current validity study. Second order Crystallized Abilities (Vocabulary and Reading) and Fluid Abilities (Episodic Memory, Working Memory, Executive/Speed) factors parsimoniously explained correlations among the five first order factors. These results suggest that the NIHTB-CHB will provide both fine-grained and broad characterization of cognition across the adult age span. (JINS, 2014, 20, 1–9)
Episodic memory is one of the most important cognitive domains that involves acquiring, storing and recalling new information. In this article, we describe a new measure developed for the NIH Toolbox, called the Picture Sequence Memory Test (PSMT) that is the first to examine episodic memory across the age range from 3 to 85. We describe the development of the measure and present validation data for ages 20 to 85. The PSMT involves presentation of sequences of pictured objects and activities in a fixed order on a computer screen and simultaneously verbally described, that the participant must remember and then reproduce over three learning trials. The results indicate good test–retest reliability and construct validity. Performance is strongly related to well-established “gold standard” measures of episodic memory and, as expected, much less well correlated with those of a measure of vocabulary. It shows clear decline with aging in parallel with a gold standard summary measure and relates to several other demographic factors and to self-reported general health status. The PSMT appears to be a reliable and valid test of episodic memory for adults, a finding similar to those found for the same measure with children. (JINS, 2014, 20, 1–9)
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)
The List Sorting Working Memory Test was designed to assess working memory (WM) as part of the NIH Toolbox Cognition Battery. List Sorting is a sequencing task requiring children and adults to sort and sequence stimuli that are presented visually and auditorily. Validation data are presented for 268 participants ages 20 to 85 years. A subset of participants (N=89) was retested 7 to 21 days later. As expected, the List Sorting Test had moderately high correlations with other measures of working memory and executive functioning (convergent validity) but a low correlation with a test of receptive vocabulary (discriminant validity). Furthermore, List Sorting demonstrates expected changes over the age span and has excellent test–retest reliability. Collectively, these results provide initial support for the construct validity of the List Sorting Working Memory Measure as a measure of working memory. However, the relationship between the List Sorting Test and general executive function has yet to be determined. (JINS, 2014, 20, 1–12)
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)
Executive functioning is widely targeted when human cognition is assessed, but there is little consensus on how it should be operationalized and measured. Recognizing the difficulties associated with establishing standard operational definitions of executive functioning, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke entered into a contract with the University of California-San Francisco to develop psychometrically robust executive measurement tools that would be accepted by the neurology clinical trials and clinical research communities. This effort, entitled Executive Abilities: Measures and Instruments for Neurobehavioral Evaluation and Research (EXAMINER), resulted in a series of tasks targeting working memory, inhibition, set shifting, fluency, insight, planning, social cognition and behavior. We describe battery conceptualization and development, data collection, scale construction based on item response theory, and lay the foundation for studying the battery's utility and validity for specific assessment and research goals. (JINS, 2013, 19, 1–9)
Executive functions refer to a constellation of higher-level cognitive abilities that enable goal-oriented behavior. The NIH EXAMINER battery was designed to assess executive functions comprehensively and efficiently. Performance can be summarized by a single score, the “Executive Composite,” which combines measures of inhibition, set-shifting, fluency, and working memory. We evaluated the ecological validity of the Executive Composite in a sample of 225 mixed neurological patients and controls using the Frontal Systems Behavior Scale (FrSBe), an informant-based measure of real-world executive behavior. In addition, we investigated the neuroanatomical correlates of the Executive Composite using voxel-based morphometry in a sample of 37 participants diagnosed with dementia, mild cognitive impairment, or as neurologically healthy. The Executive Composite accounted for 28% of the variance in Frontal Systems Behavior Scale scores beyond age. Even after including two widely used executive function tests (Trails B and Stroop) as covariates, the Executive Composite remained a significant predictor of real-world behavior. Anatomically, poorer scores on the Executive Composite were associated with smaller right and left dorsolateral prefrontal volumes, brain regions critical for good executive control. Taken together, these results suggest that the Executive Composite measures important aspects of executive function not captured by standard measures and reflects the integrity of frontal systems. (JINS, 2013, 19, 1–9)
The recently developed Everyday Cognition scales (ECog) measure multiple cognitively relevant functional domains (e.g., Everyday Memory, Everyday Language, Everyday Visuospatial abilities, and three everyday executive domains). The present study further evaluated the validity of the ECog by examining its relationship with objective measures of neuropsychological function, and neurobiological markers of disease as reflected by structural neuroimaging. Participants included 474 older adults (244 normals, 142 with MCI, 88 with dementia). The neuropsychological domains measured were episodic memory, semantic memory, spatial ability, and executive functioning. Brain MRI volumes included total brain (BV), hippocampus (HC) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Neuropsychological measures of episodic memory and executive function were most consistently related to the ECog domains; spatial abilities had a specific relationship to the Everyday Visuospatial ECog domain. HC and BV volumes were related to most ECog domains, while DLPFC volume was independently related to two everyday executive domains (Everyday Planning and Everyday Organization). The pattern of associations varied somewhat as a function of diagnosis. Episodic memory and HC had more consistent associations with the ECog domains in older adults with MCI/dementia than in cognitively normal elderly. (JINS, 2013, 19, 1–12)
Cognitive reserve is thought to reflect life experiences. Which experiences contribute to reserve and their relative importance is not understood. Subjects were 652 autopsied cases from the Rush Memory and Aging Project and the Religious Orders Study. Reserve was defined as the residual variance of the regressions of cognitive factors on brain pathology and was captured in a latent variable that was regressed on potential determinants of reserve. Neuropathology variables included Alzheimer's disease markers, Lewy bodies, infarcts, microinfarcts, and brain weight. Cognition was measured with six cognitive domain scores. Determinants of reserve were socioeconomic status (SES), education, leisure cognitive activities at age 40 (CA40) and at study enrollment (CAbaseline) in late life. The four exogenous predictors of reserve were weakly to moderately inter-correlated. In a multivariate model, all except SES had statistically significant effects on Reserve, the strongest of which were CA40 (β = .31) and CAbaseline (β = .28). The Education effect was negative in the full model (β = –.25). Results suggest that leisure cognitive activities throughout adulthood are more important than education in determining reserve. Discrepancies between cognitive activity and education may be informative in estimating late life reserve. (JINS, 2011, 17, 615–624)
Studies of neuropathology-cognition associations are not common and have been limited by small sample sizes, long intervals between autopsy and cognitive testing, and lack of breadth of neuropathology and cognition variables. This study examined domain-specific effects of common neuropathologies on cognition using data (N = 652) from two large cohort studies of older adults. We first identified dimensions of a battery of 17 neuropsychological tests, and regional measures of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) neuropathology. We then evaluated how cognitive factors were related to dimensions of AD and additional measures of cerebrovascular and Lewy Body disease, and also examined independent effects of brain weight. All cognitive domains had multiple neuropathology determinants that differed by domain. Neocortical neurofibrillary tangles were the strongest predictors of most domains, while medial temporal tangles showed a weaker relationship with episodic memory. Neuritic plaques had relatively strong effects on multiple domains. Lewy bodies and macroscopic infarcts were associated with all domains, while microscopic infarcts had more limited associations. Brain weight was related to all domains independent of specific neuropathologies. Results show that cognition is complexly determined by multiple disease substrates. Neuropathological variables and brain weight contributed approximately a third to half of the explained variance in different cognitive domains. (JINS, 2011, 17, 602–614).