One-Year Reference Norms of Cognitive Change in Spanish Old Adults: Data from the NEURONORMA Sample

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Objective. Serial cognitive assessments are useful for many purposes, such as monitoring cognitive decline or evaluating the result of an intervention. In order to determine if an observed change is reliable and meaningful, longitudinal reference data from non-clinical samples are needed. Since neuropsychological outcomes are affected by language and cultural background, cognitive tests should be adapted, and country-based norms collected. The lack of cross-sectional normative data for Spanish population has been partially remediated, but there is still a need of reliable change norms. This paper aims to give an initial response to this need by providing several reliable change indices (RCI) for 1-year follow-up in a Spanish sample.

Method. A longitudinal observational study was designed. A total of 122 healthy subjects over age 50 were evaluated twice (M = 369.5, SD= 10.7 days) with the NEURONORMA battery. Scores changes were analyzed, and simple discrepancy scores, standard deviation indices, RCI, and standardized regression-based scores were calculated.

Results. Significant improvements were observed in variables related to memory, both verbal and visual, visuospatial function, and the completion time of complex problems. Reference tables for several RCI are provided for their use in clinical settings.

Conclusions. Our results confirm the existence of heterogeneous practice effects after 1 year, and support the recommendation of using reliable change norms to avoid misdiagnosis in repeated assessments. This study provides with initial, preliminary norms of cognitive change for its use in Spanish elders. Further studies on larger samples and different inter-visit intervals are still needed.

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