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Subjective Cognitive Impairment and the Broad Autism Phenotype

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Roughly 4% to 23% of the population embody stress prone personality and other traits characterizing a subclinical “broad autism phenotype” (BAP). Subjective cognitive impairment (SCI) among healthy elderly is associated with psychological distress leading us to predict BAP would be associated with SCI.


The Autism Spectrum Quotient, a self-administered 50 item questionnaire, was completed by 419 consecutive members of the Arizona APOE Cohort who underwent neuropsychological testing every 2 years. SCI was assessed with self and informant versions of the Multidimensional Assessment of Neurodegenerative Symptoms (MANS) Questionnaire.


A total of 45 individuals scored in the BAP range, designated BAP+, and the rest were BAP−. At entry, both Multidimensional Assessment of Neurodegenerative Symptoms Questionnaire Self and Informant scores were higher in the BAP+ group (P<0.0001). After age 60, the BAP+ group had greater annual increases in Multidimensional Assessment of Neurodegenerative Symptoms Questionnaire Self scores (0.05 vs. 0.02; difference=0.03; 95% confidence interval, 0.004-0.05; P=0.02) yet there was no difference between groups in memory decline. Over ~10 years 33 individuals developed mild cognitive impairment: 4 in the BAP+ group (8.9%) and 29 in the BAP− group (7.8%), P=0.77.


Individuals who meet criteria for the BAP have escalating SCI with age, but no greater rate of memory decline or clinical progression to mild cognitive impairment.
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Keywords: aging; broad autism phenotype; memory loss; mild cognitive impairment; preclinical Alzheimer disease; subjective cognitive impairment

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Departments of Neurology 2: Biostatistics 3: Psychology, Mayo Clinic Arizona, Scottsdale, AZ

Publication date: October 1, 2018

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