Cognitive practice effects delay diagnosis of MCI: Implications for clinical trials Journal Article uri icon



  • AbstractIntroductionPractice effects (PEs) on cognitive tests obscure decline, thereby delaying detection of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Importantly, PEs may be present even when there are performance declines, if scores would have been even lower without prior test exposure. We assessed how accounting for PEs using a replacement‐participants method impacts incident MCI diagnosis.MethodsOf 889 baseline cognitively normal (CN) Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) participants, 722 returned 1 year later (mean age = 74.9 ± 6.8 at baseline). The scores of test‐naïve demographically matched “replacement” participants who took tests for the first time were compared to returnee scores at follow‐up. PEs—calculated as the difference between returnee follow‐up scores and replacement participants scores—were subtracted from follow‐up scores of returnees. PE‐adjusted cognitive scores were then used to determine if individuals were below the impairment threshold for MCI. Cerebrospinal fluid amyloid beta, phosphorylated tau, and total tau were used for criterion validation. In addition, based on screening and recruitment numbers from a clinical trial of amyloid‐positive individuals, we estimated the effect of earlier detection of MCI by accounting for cognitive PEs on a hypothetical clinical trial in which the key outcome was progression to MCI.ResultsIn the ADNI sample, PE‐adjusted scores increased MCI incidence by 19% (P < .001), increased proportion of amyloid‐positive MCI cases (+12%), and reduced proportion of amyloid‐positive CNs (–5%; P’s < .04). Additional calculations showed that the earlier detection and increased MCI incidence would also substantially reduce necessary sample size and study duration for a clinical trial of progression to MCI. Cost savings were estimated at ≈$5.41 million.DiscussionDetecting MCI as early as possible is of obvious importance. Accounting for cognitive PEs with the replacement‐participants method leads to earlier detection of MCI, improved diagnostic accuracy, and can lead to multi‐million‐dollar cost reductions for clinical trials.

publication date

  • January 1, 2022

has restriction

  • green

Date in CU Experts

  • April 13, 2023 8:33 AM

Full Author List

  • Sanderson‐Cimino M; Elman JA; Tu XM; Gross AL; Panizzon MS; Gustavson DE; Bondi MW; Edmonds EC; Eglit GML; Eppig JS

author count

  • 16

Other Profiles

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2352-8737

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2352-8737

Additional Document Info


  • 8


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