Poor awareness of IADL deficits is associated with reduced regional brain volume in older adults with cognitive impairment

Academic Article


  • Performance of instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs)can become compromised in older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Patients’ level of insight into their everyday functioning varies both amongst individuals and across domains assessed, with some individuals exhibiting complete unawareness of deficits. The current cross-sectional study examined the neuroanatomical substrates of self-awareness in order to help explain the variability in this phenomenon in older adults across a continuum of cognitive impairment. Eighty-five participants (ages 54–88, mean age = 73 years, 57% female, 89% Caucasian)diagnosed with MCI or mild probable dementia underwent structural magnetic resonance imaging. Level of self-awareness was assessed by calculating the discrepancy between objective and subjective performance across six IADLs (Financial Management, Driving, Grocery Shopping, Nutrition Evaluation, Medication Management, and Telephone Use). Over-estimation of current abilities occurred in 13–31% of the sample depending on which IADL was evaluated. Poor awareness was significantly related to reduced volume in the bilateral medial prefrontal cortex, middle and posterior cingulate cortex, right insular cortex, and cerebellum. No associations were found with total white matter lesion load. These findings were broadly consistent across all functional domains assessed, supporting the theory that cortical midline and cerebellar structures are involved in self-referential processing across a variety of different cognitive and behavioral skills. Longitudinal studies are needed to confirm this association.
  • Published In

  • Neuropsychologia  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Steward KA; Kennedy R; Erus G; Nasrallah IM; Wadley VG
  • Start Page

  • 372
  • End Page

  • 378
  • Volume

  • 129