Cognitive Test Performance among Nondemented Elderly African Americans and Whites

Manly, Jennifer J.; Jacobs, Diane; Sano, Mary; Bell, Karen L.; Merchant, Carol A.; Small, Scott A.; Stern, Yaakov

We examined the neuropsychological test performance of a randomly selected community sample of English-speaking non-Hispanic African American and white elders in northern Manhattan. All participants were diagnosed as nondemented by a neurologist, whose assessment was made independent of neuropsychological test scores. African American elders obtained significantly lower scores on measures of verbal and nonverbal learning and memory, abstract reasoning, language, and visuospatial skill than whites. After using a stratified random sampling technique to match groups on years of education, many of the discrepancies became nonsignificant; however, significant ethnic group differences on measures of figure memory, verbal abstraction, category fluency, and visuospatial skill remained. Discrepancies in test performance of education-matched African Americans and whites could not be accounted for by occupational attainment or history of medical conditions such as hypertension and diabetes. These findings emphasize the importance of using culturally appropriate norms when evaluating ethnically diverse elderly for dementia.


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February 22, 2018