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Distinct Cognitive and Brain Morphological Features in Healthy Subjects Unaware of Informant-Reported Cognitive Decline

Abstract

Background: Subtle cognitive decline preceding cognitive impairment can be self-perceived, referred to as subjective cognitive decline (SCD), or go unrecognized. Objective: To study the clinical, cognitive, and structural neuroimaging characteristics of psychometrically normal subjects without self-awareness of cognitive decline (unaware decliners, UD) and to compare them with SCD participants and controls. Methods: 2,640 participants from the ALFA cohort, 1,899 controls, 173 UD (decline reported by the informant only), and 568 SCD underwent clinical and cognitive explorations. A subset of 530 underwent structural MRI (379 Controls; 43 UD; 108 SCD). Linear models adjusting for confounders (age, sex, education, and mood state) were used to assess group differences on cognition and voxel-wise grey matter (GM) volumes. Results: 6.6% were UD while 21.5% SCD. No differences in anxiety and depression were observed between controls and UD, while SCD did (p 0.01). UD showed lower performance in the Memory Binding Test free recall (p 0.005) than controls, but no differences compared to SCD. Right medial frontal and insular increments of GM volumes were observed in UD with respect to controls. Informant report of decline in UD and SCD was associated with lower left hippocampal GM volume but related to memory performance only in UD (rho = 0.46, p = 0.002). Conclusions: UD had worse memory performance than controls which correlated with hippocampal GM volume and presented brain volume increments in self-appraisal areas (medial frontal and insula). Individuals unaware of cognitive decline may represent a distinct group at risk for cognitive impairment and support the usefulness of informant-reported cognitive decline.
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Reference

Sánchez-Benavides G, Grau-Rivera O, Cacciaglia R, Suárez-Calvet M, Falcon C,Minguillón C, Gramunt N, Gispert JD, Molinuevo JL. Distinct Cognitive and Brain Morphological Features in Healthy Subjects Unaware of Informant-Reported Cognitive Decline. J Alzheimers Dis. 2018;65(1):181-191. doi: 10.3233/JAD-180378.