• Time of day and caffeine influence some neuropsychological tests in the elderly

      Walters, Elizabeth R.; Lesk, Valerie E. (2015-03)
      We report that performance on neuropsychological tests used in the diagnosis of dementia can be influenced by external factors such as time of day (TOD) and caffeine. This study investigates TOD effects on cognitive performance in the elderly. The optimal TOD at which an individual is at their maximal arousal alters with age and in the elderly typically occurs in the morning. Neuropsychological test scores from healthy elderly participants were analysed to determine whether TOD affected performance. Interactions between caffeine and TOD were also investigated. Across two data sets that were analysed, significant TOD effects were noted for Pattern Comparison Speed (PCS), Letter Comparison Speed (LCS), Trail Making Test Part A, Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) and the Graded Naming Test (GNT), revealing a decline in test scores as TOD increases. Significant interactions between TOD, age and the PCS, LCS and Trail Making part A were noted in data set one. In data set two, where caffeine intake had been controlled for, significant interactions between caffeine, TOD and scores on the MMSE and GNT were found. The TOD and caffeine effects highlight the need to control for these external factors when scoring the assessments. This conclusion has implications for the clinical procedure of diagnosis and treatment of dementia and Alzheimer’s.