Development of a subjective cognitive decline questionnaire using item response theory: A pilot study

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Introduction: Subjective cognitive decline (SCD) may indicate unhealthy cognitive changes, but no standardized SCD measurement exists. This pilot study aimed to identify reliable SCD questions. Methods: A total of 112 cognitively normal (NC; 76 ± 8 years; 63% female), 43 mild cognitive impairment (MCI; 77 ± 7 years; 51% female), and 33 diagnostically ambiguous participants (79 ± 9 years; 58% female) were recruited from a research registry and completed 57 self-report SCD questions. Psychometric methods were used for item reduction. Results: Factor analytic models assessed unidimensionality of the latent trait (SCD); 19 items were removed with extreme response distribution or trait-fit. Item response theory (IRT) provided information about question utility; 17 items with low information were dropped. Post hoc simulation using computerized adaptive test (CAT) modeling selected the most commonly used items (n = 9 of 21 items) that represented the latent trait well (r = 0.94) and differentiated NC from MCI participants (F [1, 146] = 8.9, P = .003). Discussion: IRT and CAT modeling identified nine reliable SCD items. This pilot study is a first step toward refining SCD assessment in older adults. Replication of these findings and validation with Alzheimer's disease biomarkers will be an important next step for the creation of a SCD screener.




Gifford, K. A., Liu, D., Romano, R. R., Jones, R. N., & Jefferson, A. L. (2015). Development of a subjective cognitive decline questionnaire using item response theory: A pilot study. Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment and Disease Monitoring, 1(4), 429–439.

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