Using practice effects for targeted trials or sub-group analysis in Alzheimer’s disease: How practice effects predict change over time

Academic Article


  • Objective To describe the presence of practice effects in persons with Alzheimer disease (AD) or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and to evaluate how practice effects affect cognitive progression and the outcome of clinical trials. Methods Using data from a meta-database consisting of 18 studies including participants from the Alzheimer disease Cooperative Study (ADCS) and the Alzheimer Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) with ADAS-Cog11 as the primary outcome, we defined practice effects based on the improvement in the first two ADAS-Cog11 scores and then estimated the presence of practice effects and compared the cognitive progression between participants with and without practice effects. The robustness of practice effects was investigated using CDR SB, an outcome independent the definition itself. Furthermore, we evaluated how practice effects can affect sample size estimation. Results The overall percent of practice effects for AD participants was 39.0% and 53.3% for MCI participants. For AD studies, the mean change from baseline to 2 years was 12.8 points for the non-practice effects group vs 7.4 for the practice effects group; whereas for MCI studies, it was 4.1 for non-practice effects group vs 0.2 for the practice effects group. AD participants without practice effects progressed 0.9 points faster than those with practice effects over a period of 2 years in CDR-SB; whereas for MCI participants, the difference is 0.7 points. The sample sizes can be different by over 35% when estimated based on participants with/without practice effects. Conclusion Practice effects were prevalent and robust in persons with AD or MCI and affected the cognitive progression and sample size estimation. Planning of future AD or MCI clinical trials should account for practice effects to avoid underpower or considers target trials or stratification analysis based on practice effects.
  • Published In

  • PLoS One  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Wang G; Kennedy RE; Goldberg TE; Fowler ME; Cutter GR; Schneider LS
  • Volume

  • 15
  • Issue

  • 2