Intra-individual reaction time variability in mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease: gender, processing load and speed factors

Michelle Phillips, Peter Rogers, Judy Haworth, Antony Bayer, Andrea Tales

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


Compared to cognitively healthy ageing (CH), intra-individual variability in reaction time (IIVRT), a behavioural marker of neurological integrity, is commonly reported to increase in both Alzheimer's disease (AD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI). It varies in MCI with respect to whether it represents the pro-dromal stages of dementia or not; being greatest in those most likely to convert. Abnormal IIVRT in MCI therefore represents a potential measure of underlying functional integrity that may serve to differentiate MCI from CH and to help identify those patients for whom MCI is the result of a progressive pathological process. As the clinical approach to MCI is increasingly stratified with respect to gender, we investigated whether this factor could influence study outcome. The influence of RTSPEED and processing load upon IIVRT was also examined. Under low processing load conditions, IIVRT was significantly increased in both MCI and AD compared to CH. However, correcting for an individual's processing speed abolished this effect in MCI but not in AD, indicating that the increased IIVRT in MCI and AD may result from different factors. In MCI but not in CH, IIVRT was significantly greater for females. Increasing task processing load by adding distracting information, although increasing overall IIVRT, failed to improve the differentiation between CH and both MCI and AD, and in MCI resulted in a reduction in the influence of gender upon study outcome. The outcome of studies investigating IIVRT in MCI and AD compared to CH therefore appear influenced by the gender of the participants, by task-related processing load and processing speed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e65712
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Structured keywords

  • Brain and Behaviour
  • Nutrition and Behaviour


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