Measuring Information Processing Speed in Mild Cognitive Impairment: Clinical Versus Research Dichotomy

Judy Haworth, Michelle Phillips, Margaret Newson, Peter J. Rogers, Anna Torrens-Burton, Andrea Tales*

*Corresponding author for this work

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

34 Citations (Scopus)
417 Downloads (Pure)


A substantial body of research evidence is indicative of disproportionately slowed information processing speed in a wide range of multi-trial, computer-based, neuroimaging- and electroencephalography-based reaction time (RT) tests in Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment (MCI). However, in what is arguably a dichotomy between research evidence and clinical practice, RT associated with different brain functions is rarely assessed as part of their diagnosis. Indeed, often only the time taken to perform a single, specific task, commonly the Trail making test (TMT), is measured. In clinical practice therefore, there can be a failure to assess adequately the integrity of the rapid, serial information processing and response, necessary for efficient, appropriate, and safe interaction with the environment. We examined whether a typical research-based RT task could at least match the TMT in differentiating amnestic MCI (aMCI) from cognitively healthy aging at group level. As aMCI is a heterogeneous group, typically containing only a proportion of individuals for whom aMCI represents the early stages of dementia, we examined the ability of each test to provide intra-group performance variation. The results indicate that as well as significant slowing in performance of the operations involved in TMT part B (but not part A), individuals with aMCI also experience significant slowing in RT compared to controls. The results also suggest that research-typical RT tests may be superior to the TMT in differentiating between cognitively healthy aging and aMCI at group level and in revealing the performance variability one would expect from an etiologically heterogeneous disorder such as aMCI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-275
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Feb 2016

Structured keywords

  • Brain and Behaviour
  • Nutrition and Behaviour


  • Dementia
  • information processing speed
  • mild cognitive impairment
  • reaction time


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