Neuropsychiatric and Cognitive Symptoms Across the Alzheimer Disease Clinical Spectrum: Cross-sectional and Longitudinal Associations

Background and Objectives

To investigate the prevalence and trajectories of neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) in relation to cognitive functioning in a cohort of β-amyloid–positive (A+) individuals across the Alzheimer disease (AD) clinical spectrum.

Methods

In this single-center observational study, we included all individuals who visited the Alzheimer Center Amsterdam and had a clinical diagnosis of subjective cognitive decline (SCD), mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or probable AD dementia and were A+. We measured NPS with the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI), examining total scores and the presence of specific NPI domains. Cognition was assessed across 5 cognitive domains and with the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE). We examined trajectories including model-based trends for NPS and cognitive functioning over time. We used linear mixed models to relate baseline NPI scores to cognitive functioning at baseline (whole-sample) and longitudinal time points (subsample n = 520, mean 1.8 [SD 0.7] years follow-up).

Results

We included 1,524 A+ individuals from the Amsterdam Dementia Cohort with A+ SCD (n = 113), A+ MCI (n = 321), or A+ AD dementia (n = 1,090). NPS were prevalent across all clinical AD stages (≥1 NPS 81.4% in SCD, 81.2% in MCI, 88.7% in dementia; ≥1 clinically relevant NPS 54.0% in SCD, 50.5% in MCI, 66.0% in dementia). Cognitive functioning showed a uniform gradual decline; while in contrast, large intraindividual heterogeneity of NPS was observed over time across all AD groups. At baseline, we found associations between NPS and cognition in dementia that were most pronounced for NPI total scores and MMSE (range β = –0.18 to –0.11, false discovery rate [FDR]–adjusted p < 0.05), while there were no cross-sectional relationships in SCD and MCI (range β = –0.32 to 0.36, all FDR-adjusted p > 0.05). There were no associations between baseline NPS and cognitive functioning over time in any clinical stage (range β = –0.13 to 0.44, all FDR-adjusted p > 0.05).

Discussion

NPS and cognitive symptoms are both prevalent across the AD clinical spectrum, but show a different evolution during the course of the disease.

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