Recognition of famous names predicts cognitive decline in healthy elders

Michael Seidenberg, Christina D. Kay, John L. Woodard, Kristy A. Nielson, J. Carson Smith, Cassandra Kandah, Leslie M. Guidotti Breting, Julia Novitski, Melissa Lancaster, Monica Matthews, Nathan Hantke, Alissa Butts, Stephen M. Rao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The ability to recognize familiar people is impaired in both Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer's Dementia (AD). In addition, both groups often demonstrate a time-limited temporal gradient (TG) in which well known people from decades earlier are better recalled than those learned recently. In this study, we examined the TG in cognitively intact elders for remote famous names (1950-1965) compared to more recent famous names (1995-2005). We hypothesized that the TG pattern on a famous name recognition task (FNRT) would predict future cognitive decline, and also show a significant correlation with hippocampal volume. Method: Seventy-eight healthy elders (ages 65-90) with age-appropriate cognitive functioning at baseline were administered a FNRT. Follow-up testing 18 months later produced two groups: Declining (≥ 1 SD reduction on at least one of three measures) and Stable (< 1 SD). Results: The Declining group (N = 27) recognized fewer recent famous names than the Stable group (N = 51), although recognition for remote names was comparable. Baseline MRI volumes for both the left and right hippocampi were significantly smaller in the Declining group than the Stable group. Smaller baseline hippocampal volume was also significantly correlated with poorer performance for recent, but not remote famous names. Logistic regression analyses indicated that baseline TG performance was a significant predictor of group status (Declining vs. Stable) independent of chronological age and APOE ε4 inheritance. Conclusions: The TG for famous name recognition may serve as an early preclinical cognitive marker of cognitive decline in healthy older individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-342
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive decline
  • Famous names
  • Semantic memory
  • Temporal gradient

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Recognition of famous names predicts cognitive decline in healthy elders'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this