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J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2014;36(3):236-43. doi: 10.1080/13803395.2013.877875. Epub 2014 Feb 19.

Performance variability during a multitrial list-learning task as a predictor of future cognitive decline in healthy elders.

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a Department of Psychology , Wayne State University , Detroit , MI , USA.



In clinical settings, neuropsychological test performance is traditionally evaluated with total summary scores (TSS). However, recent studies demonstrated that indices of intraindividual variability (IIV) yielded unique information complementing TSS. This 18-month longitudinal study sought to determine whether IIV indices derived from a multitrial list-learning test (the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test) provided incremental utility in predicting cognitive decline in older adults compared to TSS.


Ninety-nine cognitively intact older adults (aged 65 to 89 years) underwent neuropsychological testing (including the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test) at baseline and 18-month follow-up. Participants were classified as cognitively stable (n = 65) or declining (n = 34) based on changes in their neuropsychological test performance. Logistic regression modeling tested the ability of baseline TSS indices (sum of Trials 1-5, immediate recall, and delayed recall) and IIV indices (lost access and gained access) to discriminate between stable and declining individuals.


Higher values of both lost access and gained access at baseline were associated with an increased risk for decline at 18-month follow-up. Further, the IIV indices provided predictive utility above and beyond the TSS indices.


These results highlight the value of analyzing IIV in addition to TSS during neuropsychological evaluation in older adults. High levels of IIV may reflect impairment in anterograde memory systems and/or executive dysfunction that may serve as a prognostic indicator of cognitive decline.

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