Auditory event-related potentials in individuals with subjective and mild cognitive impairment

Tim Stuckenschneider, Christopher D Askew, Jan Weber, Vera Abeln, Stefanie Rüdiger, Mathew J Summers, Stefan Schneider
Behavioural Brain Research 2020 May 21, : 112700

OBJECTIVE: The analysis of event-related potentials (ERPs) is a useful tool to differentiate between healthy older adults, and individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Less is known about the ERPs' sensitivity of differentiating between individuals with subjective cognitive impairment (SCI) and MCI, as early evidence indicates similar brain alterations between these two groups. In order, to establish tests that are sensitive to subclinical impairment, this study compared auditory evoked ERPs between individuals with SCI and MCI.

METHODS: Besides assessing cognitive performance in four neuropsychological tests (Trail Making Test A + B, verbal fluency letter and category task), latency and amplitude of ERP components evoked by an auditory oddball paradigm were compared between two groups of either individuals with SCI (n = 13) or MCI (n = 13).

RESULTS: While individuals with MCI performed significantly worse in all neuropsychological tests (TMT A: p = 0.001, Cohen's d = 1.5; TMT B: p = 0.030, Cohen's d = 0.94; verbal fluency letter: p = 0.0011, Cohen's d = 1.08; verbal fluency category: p = 0.038; Cohen's d = 0.86), no significant differences (p > 0.05) were found in ERP components with small to moderate effect sizes (Cohen's d ranged between 0.11 - 0.59).

CONCLUSION: ERPs evoked by an auditory oddball paradigm lack sensitivity to differentiate between individuals with SCI and MCI, although significant differences in cognitive performance were detected by neuropsychological tests. Similar pathophysiological brain alterations may limit utility of ERPs as indicated by previous research and results of this study. Cognitively more challenging tasks than the auditory oddball paradigm may be considered by future investigations.

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