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Adult Lifespan Cognitive Variability in the Cross-Sectional Cam-CAN Cohort.

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Fiona MatthewsORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


This study examines variability across the age span in cognitive performance in a cross-sectional, population-based, adult lifespan cohort from the Cambridge Centre for Ageing and Neuroscience (Cam-CAN) study (n = 2680). A key question we highlight is whether using measures that are designed to detect age-related cognitive pathology may not be sensitive to, or reflective of, individual variability among younger adults. We present three issues that contribute to the debate for and against age-related increases in variability. Firstly, the need to formally define measures of central tendency and measures of variability. Secondly, in addition to the commonly addressed location-confounding (adjusting for covariates) there may exist changes in measures of variability due to confounder sub-groups. Finally, that increases in spread may be a result of floor or ceiling effects; where the measure is not sensitive enough at all ages. From the Cam-CAN study, a large population-based dataset, we demonstrate the existence of variability-confounding for the immediate episodic memory task; and show that increasing variance with age in our general cognitive measures is driven by a ceiling effect in younger age groups.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Green E, Shafto MA, Matthews FE, Cam-CAN, White SR

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

Year: 2015

Volume: 12

Issue: 12

Pages: 15516-15530

Print publication date: 01/12/2015

Online publication date: 07/12/2015

Acceptance date: 01/12/2015

Date deposited: 02/02/2016

ISSN (print): 1661-7827

ISSN (electronic): 1660-4601

Publisher: MDPI AG


DOI: 10.3390/ijerph121215003

PubMed id: 26690191


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Funder referenceFunder name
BB/H008217/1Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
BB/H008217/1Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
G0601022Medical Research Council CFAS II project
U105292687Medical Research Council