False-Positive Error Rates for Reliable Digit Span and Auditory Verbal Learning Test Performance Validity Measures in Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment and Early Alzheimer Disease

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Objective: The objective is to examine failure on three embedded performance validity tests [Reliable Digit Span (RDS), Auditory Verbal Learning Test (AVLT) logistic regression, and AVLT recognition memory] in early Alzheimer disease (AD; n = 178), amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI; n = 365), and cognitively intact age-matched controls (n = 206).

Method: Neuropsychological tests scores were obtained from subjects participating in the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI).

Results: RDS failure using a ≤7 RDS threshold was 60/178 (34%) for early AD, 52/365 (14%) for MCI, and 17/206 (8%) for controls. A ≤6 RDS criterion reduced this rate to 24/178 (13%) for early AD, 15/365 (4%) for MCI, and 7/206 (3%) for controls. AVLT logistic regression probability of ≥.76 yielded unacceptably high false-positive rates in both clinical groups [early AD = 149/178 (79%); MCI = 159/365 (44%)] but not cognitively intact controls (13/206, 6%). AVLT recognition criterion of ≤9/15 classified 125/178 (70%) of early AD, 155/365 (42%) of MCI, and 18/206 (9%) of control scores as invalid, which decreased to 66/178 (37%) for early AD, 46/365 (13%) for MCI, and 10/206 (5%) for controls when applying a ≤5/15 criterion. Despite high false-positive rates across individual measures and thresholds, combining RDS ≤ 6 and AVLT recognition ≤9/15 classified only 9/178 (5%) of early AD and 4/365 (1%) of MCI patients as invalid performers.

Conclusions: Embedded validity cutoffs derived from mixed clinical groups produce unacceptably high false-positive rates in MCI and early AD. Combining embedded PVT indicators lowers the false-positive rate.

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