Specific patterns of decline over time were evaluated across a spectrum of cognitive measures in presymptomatic Alzheimer disease (AD) within a community sample.
A total of 551 individuals completed a battery of standard cognitive tests 3.5 and 1.5 years before outcome (clinical onset of AD vs continued nondemented status) within a prospective community-based study of AD. Test score changes in 68 cases (who subsequently developed symptomatic AD) and 483 controls (who remained nondemented) on each of 15 cognitive measures were transformed into z scores adjusted for age, sex, and education. A case-control rate ratio of the proportions of individuals who showed "cognitive decline" on each test was calculated, representing the relative magnitude of cognitive decline on each test in presymptomatic AD compared with normal aging.
Declines in Trail-Making Tests A and B and Word List delayed recognition of originals and third immediate learning trial had the highest rate ratios, larger than 3.0 (P<.01). These were followed by Word List delayed recognition of foils and delayed recall, Consortium to Establish a Registry for Alzheimer's Disease Praxis, Clock Drawing, the Boston Naming Test, and Orientation, with rate ratios between 1.7 and 3.0 (P<.05).
Memory and executive dysfunction showed the greatest decline over time in individuals who would clinically manifest AD 1.5 years later. These findings might help us understand the underlying evolution of the early neurodegenerative process. They highlight the importance of executive dysfunction early in the disease process and might facilitate early detection of AD.