Exploring symptom clusters in mild cognitive impairment and dementia with the NIH Toolbox

Callie E. Tyner*, Aaron J. Boulton, Jerry Slotkin, Matthew L. Cohen, Sandra Weintraub, Richard C. Gershon, David S. Tulsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Symptom clustering research provides a unique opportunity for understanding complex medical conditions. The objective of this study was to apply a variable-centered analytic approach to understand how symptoms may cluster together, within and across domains of functioning in mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia, to better understand these conditions and potential etiological, prevention, and intervention considerations. Method: Cognitive, motor, sensory, emotional, and social measures from the NIH Toolbox were analyzed using exploratory factor analysis (EFA) from a dataset of 165 individuals with a research diagnosis of either amnestic MCI or dementia of the Alzheimer's type. Results: The six-factor EFA solution described here primarily replicated the intended structure of the NIH Toolbox with a few deviations, notably sensory and motor scores loading onto factors with measures of cognition, emotional, and social health. These findings suggest the presence of cross-domain symptom clusters in these populations. In particular, negative affect, stress, loneliness, and pain formed one unique symptom cluster that bridged the NIH Toolbox domains of physical, social, and emotional health. Olfaction and dexterity formed a second unique cluster with measures of executive functioning, working memory, episodic memory, and processing speed. A third novel cluster was detected for mobility, strength, and vision, which was considered to reflect a physical functioning factor. Somewhat unexpectedly, the hearing test included did not load strongly onto any factor. Conclusion: This research presents a preliminary effort to detect symptom clusters in amnestic MCI and dementia using an existing dataset of outcome measures from the NIH Toolbox.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • adults
  • aged
  • cognition
  • emotion
  • pain assessment
  • psychomotor performances
  • sensory function
  • social support
  • statistical factor analyses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • General Neuroscience


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