Personal subjective reports of memory ability may be a reliable early marker of Alzheimer’s disease.

Psychological sciences doctoral student Marci Horn (left) conducts a name-face memory test as part of a study at the Center for Vital Longevity.

New research from the Center for Vital Longevity (CVL) at The University of Texas at Dallas suggests that subjective complaints about poor memory performance, especially in people over 60, could be a useful early marker for the onset of mild cognitive decline, which sometimes foreshadows Alzheimer’s disease.

Subjective memory is a person’s unscientific self-evaluation of how good his or her memory is, and whether, in that person’s opinion, there has been any worsening of memory through age. While some changes may be undetectable to others and are often too subtle to register on cognitive tests, the person subjectively believes that memory is slipping.

Published recently in Psychology and Aging, the research from Dr. Karen Rodrigue’s lab at CVL examined subjective memory complaints in nearly 200 healthy adults, ages 20 to 94. Previous studies suggest that subjective memory complaints are not necessarily indicative of cognitive decline, and may stem from underlying conditions such as anxiety and depression, which have been shown to impede memory.

The current study measured mood and screened out depressed individuals. Researchers also measured participants for known risk factors for memory loss and Alzheimer’s, such as higher levels of beta-amyloid in the brain and the presence of a gene variant called ApoE4. These factors were taken into account to examine whether subjective memory alone was a reliable correlate of actual memory ability.

The study focused on associative memory — for example, remembering word pairs and name-face pairs. This type of memory is particularly sensitive to age-related decline, and the most common complaint of aging individuals.

The study found that a person’s intuitive or intrinsic assessment of his or her own memory was actually a reliable predictor of performance on the laboratory memory assessment. This result was particularly true for individuals with genetic risk for memory loss.

“Our findings show that subjective memory can be a reliable indicator of memory performance, even in cognitively healthy adults,” said psychological sciences doctoral student Marci Horn, the lead author of the study. “The same people who self-report memory problems may also have other risk factors associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”

The researchers also found that men who had higher amyloid levels reported the most subjective memory complaints in the study. Previous studies had not uncovered a sex-specific relationship, nor did they account for the genetic and amyloid risk factors in these associations, the researchers said.

The strongest correlation of subjective memory complaints with actual cognitive performance was in study participants older than 60, when people are generally at greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

“It seems that awareness of memory changes may be a reliable indicator of one’s current memory ability, and may serve as another harbinger of future loss, as this relationship was strongest in those with known risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, namely ApoE4 genotype and beta-amyloid burden in the brain,” said Rodrigue, the senior author of the study and assistant professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS). “We are following these individuals over time to further test this idea.”

Dr. Kristen Kennedy, an assistant professor in BBS, also was an author of the study. The research was funded in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Parkland Hospital Uses Executive Bonus Money to Give Its Workers a Raise


Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas will raise its own minimum wage to $10.25 an hour next month, paying for the increase with money originally devoted to executive bonuses.

The lowest-level employees at the hospital currently make $8.78 an hour, and the increase will give about 230 workers a raise. Those workers were already making more than Texas’s minimum wage, which is the same as the federal $7.25 an hour rate. The move also means that every worker employed by Dallas county, inside and outside the hospital, will make more than $10.25 an hour.

The wage increase will cost the hospital about $350,000 a year. The expense will be covered with money from the upcoming quarter’s bonus pool for the hospital’s 60 vice presidents and top executives. That pool was between $750,000 and $1.2 million in the most recent quarter, and it’s between $3 million and $5 million for the full year.

Dr. Jim Dunn, the hospital’s executive vice president and chief talent officer, told Modern Healthcare that the decision was made in the hopes of improving workers’ morale and to provide a living wage. “We really want, in any way possible, to break down any gaps or anything between the top leaders and those who are closest to our patients,” he said. “We feel like it’s the right thing to do.”

Raising wages can help businesses’ bottom lines, as it can improve efficiency, make it easier to recruit workers and lower turnover. Losing employees to turnover is particularly expensive, as it can cost as much as 20 percent of a workers’ salary to replace an employee. Other companies have voluntarily raised their minimum wages lately, including the retailer Gap, which boosted its lowest pay to $10 an hour.

Funding a raise with executive compensation also makes sense, given the growing disconnect between pay at the top and the bottom. CEO pay is now 295.9 times the pay for their own workers, far higher than the 87.3-to-one ratio in the early 1990s. Average pay for a chief executive last year was $15.2 million, a 21.7 percent increase over 2010, while workers saw their pay fall by 1.3 percent in the same time. Corporate profits have also hit record highs as workers keep increasing their productivity, but they haven’t shared in that growth. If the minimum wage had kept up with rising productivity, it would be nearly $22 an hour, and if it had simply kept up with inflation since the 1960s it would be over $10 an hour.

President Obama and Congressional Democrats have pushed to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, but have been stymied by Republicans. In light of that inaction, some states have taken matters into their own hands, and three have passed a $10.10 minimum wage while Vermont put its at $10.50.

Hospital Uses Executive Bonus Money to Give Its Workers a Raise