Salivary cortisol day profiles in elderly with mild cognitive impairment
It is unknown whether hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction is associated with the memory impairments observed among elderly participants with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a group considered at increased risk for Alzheimer's disease (AD). Therefore, salivary cortisol levels were measured at six points over the course of the day while at-home in MCI participants (n=16), normal elderly (n=28), and young controls (n=14). Results revealed that MCI participants did not show elevated salivary cortisol levels. The 9 a.m. cortisol level of the MCI group was significantly lower than the 9 a.m. level of the young controls, but did not differ from those of the normal elderly group. In contrast to the other two groups, within the MCI group mean cortisol levels were inversely related to immediate recall of paragraphs. No association was observed between mean cortisol levels and performance in paired associates and digit span. Whether cortisol levels, in conjunction with other factors, such as hippocampal volume, will lead to improved prediction of future decline to AD in participants with MCI remains to be established in longitudinal studies.