Clinical research risk assessment among individuals with mild cognitive impairment

Angela L. Jefferson, Hugo Carmona, Katherine A. Gifford, Susan Lambe, Laura K. Byerly, Nicole G. Cantwell, Yorghos Tripodis, Jason Karlawish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To determine whether individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) differ from cognitively normal (NC) elders on a risk assessment task and whether participants and their study partners evaluate risk and benefit similarly. DESIGN: Cross-sectional. SETTING: University medical setting. PARTICIPANTS: Seventy-nine participants (NC, n = 40; MCI, n = 39), age 60-90 years (73 ± 7 years; 53% women), and 64 study partners (NC, n = 36; MCI, n = 28), age 38-84 years (68 ± 10 years; 67% women). MEASUREMENTS: Participants and study partners completed a risk assessment task that involved ranking from least to most risk four hypothetical vignettes for memory loss research (brain autopsy, blood draw, oral medication, neurosurgery). Participants also completed decisional capacity for research and neuropsychological protocols. RESULTS: MCI participants' risk rankings differed from NC risk rankings (p <0.001) with MCI participants ranking brain autopsy higher and an oral medication trial lower. Demographic, decisional capacity, and neuropsychological variables could not explain MCI participant performances. Participants and their study partners had comparable risk assessment performance (p = 1.0). MCI study partners performed similar to their MCI participant counterparts but were different from NC study partners (p = 0.002; i.e., ranking autopsy higher and oral medication lower). CONCLUSION: Findings suggest that individuals with MCI assess risk differently than NC peers by overestimating the risk (or underestimating the benefit) of brain autopsy and underestimating the risk (or overestimating the benefit) of oral medication. Study partners display a similar pattern. These observations may be secondary to MCI participants' (and their study partners') personal connection to the potential benefits of an experimental medication for memory loss.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)878-886
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • research ethics
  • research participation
  • research proxy
  • study partners

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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