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Study partner types and prediction of cognitive performance: implications to preclinical Alzheimer's trials.

  • Author(s): Nuño, Michelle M;
  • Gillen, Daniel L;
  • Grill, Joshua D;
  • Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study
  • et al.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) clinical trials require enrollment of a participant and a study partner, whose role includes assessing participant cognitive and functional performance. AD trials now investigate early stages of the disease, when participants are not cognitively impaired. This gives rise to the question of whether study partners or participants provide more information in these trials.


We used data from the AD Cooperative Study Prevention Instrument Project (ADCS-PI) to compare participant and study partner predictions of the participant's current and future cognitive state. We used the Cognitive Function Instrument (CFI) as a measure of evaluation of the participant's cognitive status and the modified ADCS Preclinical Alzheimer's Cognitive Composite (mADCS-PACC) as an objective measure of cognition. Stratifying by cognitive status and study partner type and adjusting for other predictors of the participant's cognitive state, we used random forests along with estimated mean variable importance (eMVI) to assess how well each member of the dyad can predict cognitive state at current and later visits. We also fit linear regression models at each time point and for each scenario.


Participants were better at predicting future cognitive status compared to their study partners regardless of study partner type, though the difference between participants and partners was greatest for non-spousal dyads in the lowest-performing quartile. Cross-sectional assessments differed substantially by dyad type. Within the lowest cognitive performance quartile, participants having a non-spousal study partner outperformed their partners in assessing cognition at later times. Spousal partners, in contrast, outperformed participants later in the study in predicting current cognitive performance.


These results indicate that participants tend to be better at predicting future cognition compared to their study partners regardless of the study partner type. When assessing current cognition, however, spousal study partners perform better at later time points and non-spousal study partners do not provide as much information regarding participant cognitive state.

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