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June 11, 2021
The reliable change index (RCI) is a commonly used method for interpreting change in neuropsychological test scores over time. However, the RCI is a psychometric method that, to date, has not been validated against neuroanatomical changes. Longitudinal neuroimaging and neuropsychological data from baseline and one-year follow-up visits were retrieved from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) database. The RCI was used to identify participants showing reliable decline on memory (ADNI-Mem; N = 450) and executive functioning (ADNI-EF; N = 456) factor scores. For each factor score, two groups (reliable change vs. no reliable change) were matched on potential baseline confounding variables. Longitudinal neuroanatomical data were analysed using tensor-based morphometry. Analysis revealed that reliable change on ADNI-Mem was associated with atrophy in the medial temporal cortex, limbic cortex, temporal lobe and some regions of the parietal lobe. Similar atrophy patterns were found for reliable change on ADNI-EF, except that atrophy extended to the frontal lobe and the atrophy was more extensive and of higher magnitude. The current study not only validates clinical usage of the RCI with neuroanatomical evidence of associated underlying brain change but also suggests patterns of likely brain atrophy when reliable cognitive decline is detected.

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Author: Shayne S.‐H. Lin,
Evan Fletcher,
Brandon E. Gavett,
for the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative