Neuropsychiatric symptoms in older people with and without cognitive impairment

Henry Brodaty*, Megan Heffernan, Brian Draper, Simone Reppermund, Nicole A. Kochan, Melissa J. Slavin, Julian N. Trollor, Perminder S. Sachdev

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Citations (Scopus)


Neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) are non-cognitive disturbances such as depression. Rates of NPS have been shown to increase as cognitive ability declines and may be useful in predicting transition from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to dementia. This community-based study reports the association between NPS and cognitive decline over two years. Participants included 873 community dwelling adults aged 70-90 years enrolled in the Sydney Memory and Ageing Study. NPS were assessed by the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI). Cognitive impairment was defined by diagnosis (MCI or incident dementia) or neuropsychological test performance across five cognitive domains. Cognitive decline was defined by progression to dementia or worse neuropsychological performance. Total NPS at baseline did not differ between those without cognitive impairment (26.2%) and those with MCI (28.8%), but agitation and apathy were associated with MCI. Only baseline depression was associated with dementia at follow-up. Total NPS at baseline was cross-sectionally associated with cognitive impairment in executive function, attention, and global cognition, but did not predict cognitive decline. Depression, anxiety, agitation, anxiety, and apathy were all associated with impairment in at least one cognitive domain, but only anxiety and agitation were significantly associated with cognitive decline. Sensitivity analyses applied more stringent criteria for NPS and cognitive impairment in MCI but did not alter interpretation of results from the main analysis. Overall rates of NPS at baseline were not associated with MCI, dementia, or cognitive decline over two years. Additional follow-up is needed to further examine this association over a longer time course.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-420
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive deficits
  • dementia
  • mild cognitive impairment
  • neuropsychiatric symptoms


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