Cognitive decline is not always Alzheimer’s disease, experts have said.
At the first sign of cognitive trouble, people often worry it could be Alzheimer’s disease, but researchers said that poor cognition can be part of normal aging for some.
The University of Cambridge team compared the brains of people with reduced cognitive function who have not noticed memory issues – dubbed “cognitively frail” – with those of adults with a mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease and other healthy adults.
The small number of participants, drawn from the Cambridge Centre for Ageing and Neuroscience study, performed a battery of cognition tests and researchers also examined their brain structure with an MRI scan and the brain activity with other tests.
The study, published in the journal JNeurosci, found that the brains of cognitively frail adults more closely resembled the brains of healthy adults than those of adults with Alzheimer’s or a mild cognitive impairment.
Yet on the cognition tests they performed like adults with mild cognitive impairment.
The authors concluded that impaired cognition can be part of the range of normal aging and is not always an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
“Community-based cohorts of older adults with low cognitive performance should not be interpreted as representing undiagnosed Alzheimer’s disease,” they concluded.