BACKGROUND: Continuing advances in the understanding of Alzheimer's disease progression have inspired development of disease-modifying therapeutics intended for use in preclinical populations. However, identification of clinically meaningful cognitive and functional outcomes for individuals who are, by definition, asymptomatic remains a significant challenge. Clinical trials for prevention and early intervention require measures with increased sensitivity to subtle deficits in instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) that comprise the first functional declines in prodromal disease. Validation of potential endpoints is required to ensure measure sensitivity and reliability in the populations of interest.
OBJECTIVES: The present research validates use of the Virtual Reality Functional Capacity Assessment Tool (VRFCAT) for performance-based assessment of IADL functioning in older adults (age 55+) with subjective cognitive decline.
DESIGN: Cross-sectional validation study.
SETTING: All participants were evaluated on-site at NeuroCog Trials, Durham, NC, USA.
PARTICIPANTS: Participants included 245 healthy younger adults ages 20-54 (131 female), 247 healthy older adults ages 55-91 (151 female) and 61 older adults with subjective cognitive decline (SCD) ages 56-97 (45 female).
MEASURES: Virtual Reality Functional Capacity Assessment Tool; Brief Assessment of Cognition App; Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study Prevention Instrument Project - Mail-In Cognitive Function Screening Instrument; Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study Instrumental Activities of Daily Living - Prevention Instrument, University of California, San Diego Performance-Based Skills Assessment - Validation of Intermediate Measures; Montreal Cognitive Assessment; Trail Making Test- Part B.
RESULTS: Participants with SCD performed significantly worse than age-matched normative controls on all VRFCAT endpoints, including total completion time, errors and forced progressions (p≤0001 for all, after Bonferonni correction). Consistent with prior findings, both groups performed significantly worse than healthy younger adults (age 20-54). Participants with SCD also performed significantly worse than controls on objective cognitive measures. VRFCAT performance was strongly correlated with cognitive performance. In the SCD group, VRFCAT performance was strongly correlated with cognitive performance across nearly all tests with significant correlation coefficients ranging from 0.3 to 0.7; VRFCAT summary measures all had correlations greater than r=0.5 with MoCA performance and BAC App Verbal Memory (p<0.01 for all).
CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest the VRFCAT provides a sensitive tool for evaluation of IADL functioning in individuals with subjective cognitive decline. Strong correlations with cognition across groups suggest the VRFCAT may be uniquely suited for clinical trials in preclinical AD, as well as longitudinal investigations of the relationship between cognition and function.