DOI: 10.1177/08919887241232650 ISSN: 0891-9887

Multiple Early Biomarkers to Predict Cognitive Decline in Dementia-Free Older Adults

Juan Li, Zhiying Jiang, Shengjie Duan, Xingxing Zhu
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Neurology (clinical)


Baseline olfactory impairment, poor performance on cognitive test, and medial temporal lobe atrophy are considered biomarkers for predicting future cognitive decline in dementia-free older adults. However, the combined effect of these predictors has not been fully investigated.


A group of 110 participants without dementia were continuously recruited into this study, and underwent olfactory, cognitive tests and MRI scanning at baseline and 5-year follow-up. Olfactory function was assessed using the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test (UPSIT). Participants were divided into the cognitive decliners and non-decliners.


Among 87 participants who completed the 5-year follow-up, cognitive decline was present in 32 cases and 55 remained stable. Compared with non-decliners, cognitive decliners presented lower scores on both the UPSIT and the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA), and smaller hippocampal volume at baseline (all P < .001). The logistic regression analysis revealed that lower scores on UPSIT and MoCA, and smaller hippocampal volume were strongly associated with subsequent cognitive decline, respectively (all P < .001). For the prediction of cognitive decline, lower score on UPSIT performed the sensitivity of 63.6% and specificity of 81.2%, lower score on MoCA with the sensitivity of 74.5% and specificity of 65.6%, smaller hippocampal volume with the sensitivity of 70.9% and specificity of 78.1%, respectively. Combining three predictors resulted in the sensitivity of 83.6% and specificity of 93.7%.


The combination of olfactory test, cognitive test with structural MRI may enhance the predictive ability for future cognitive decline for dementia-free older adults.

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