Effects of anticholinergic drugs on cognitive function in older Australians: Results from the AIBL study

Gobhathai Sittironnarit*, David Ames, Ashley I. Bush, Noel Faux, Leon Flicker, Jonathan Foster, Sarah Hilmer, Nicola T. Lautenschlager, Paul Maruff, Colin L. Masters, Ralph N. Martins, Christopher Rowe, Cassandra Szoeke, Kathryn A. Ellis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)


Background/Aims: The nature and extent of adverse cognitive effects due to the prescription of anticholinergic drugs in older people with and without dementia is unclear. Methods: We calculated the anticholinergic load (ACL) of medications taken by participants of the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle (AIBL) study of ageing, a cohort of 211 Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients, 133 mild cognitive impairment (MCI) patients and 768 healthy controls (HC) all aged over 60 years. The association between ACL and cognitive function was examined for each diagnostic group (HC, MCI, AD). Results: A high ACL within the HC group was associated with significantly slower response speeds for the Stroop color and incongruent trials. No other significant relationships between ACL and cognition were noted. Conclusion: In this large cohort, prescribed anticholinergic drugs appeared to have modest effects upon psychomotor speed and executive function, but not on other areas of cognition in healthy older adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-178
Number of pages6
JournalDementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Acetylcholine
  • Anticholinergic scale
  • Cognition
  • Elderly
  • Medications
  • Memory


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