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Reduced Contrast Sensitivity and Cognitive Decline

Ann Neurol; ePub 2018 Mar 8; Ward, Gelfand, et al

Among older women, reduced visual contrast sensitivity is associated with a greater risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI)/dementia, a recent study found. These findings suggest that visual system neurodegeneration or dysfunction may parallel or precede dementia‐related cortical or subcortical degeneration, and that contrast sensitivity testing may be useful in identifying aging adults at high risk for dementia. In a prospective, community‐based study of aging women (Study of Osteoporotic Fractures), researchers analyzed whether visual contrast sensitivity was associated with increased risk of MCI or dementia and/or worse performance on various cognitive tests assessed 10 years later. Contrast sensitivity was assessed at baseline in each eye using a VISTECH VCTS 6500 wall chart. MCI/dementia was adjudicated by an expert panel. They found:

  • Of 1,352 white (88.2%) and African‐American (11.8%) women with a mean age of 77.7 years (SD 3.3), 536 (39.6%) went on to develop MCI/dementia over 10 years.
  • MCI/dementia risk was more than doubled in women with the lowest quartile of contrast sensitivity compared to highest.
  • Reduced baseline contrast sensitivity was also associated with lower performance on several cognitive measures assessed 10 years later.

Ward ME, Gelfand JM, Lui L-Y, et al. Reduced contrast sensitivity among older women is associated with increased risk of cognitive impairment. [Published online ahead of print March 8, 2018]. Ann Neurol. doi:10.1002/ana.25196.