The role of premorbid personality and cognitive factors in awareness of illness, memory, and behavioural functioning in Alzheimer's disease

James Gilleen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction. Research has suggested an association between personality factors and awareness in patients with dementia, yet valid measurement of premorbid personality is problematic. The present study aimed to better reveal the relationship between premorbid personality and awareness by using improved methodology. Moreover, the study aims to contrast the strength of the relationship of premorbid personality and awareness with that of cognitive factors.

Methods. Awareness of illness, symptoms, mnemonic and behavioural impairments, and treatment compliance were measured in 27 patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease (AD) diagnosed by standard criteria for probable AD. Participant premorbid personality was measured using average retrospective Neuroticism-Extroversion-Openness Inventory (NEO-FFI) scores from two informants. Correlations were performed to investigate the relationship between awareness and personality dimensions, as well as measures of cognitive style, neuropsychological function, mood, carer burden, and sociodemographic factors.

Results. There was little relationship between awareness and personality scores, but modest associations between awareness and mood, age, and age of onset of first symptoms. Awareness of memory was related to memory functioning. Increased carer burden was associated with lack of awareness of cognitive-behavioural deficits but there were only few and weak associations between awareness and measures of cognitive functioning.

Conclusions. There was little support for an association between previous personality and awareness in dementia. However, increased carer burden was associated specifically with lack of awareness of cognitive-behavioural deficits not deficits in ADL, whereas lower awareness of ADL and not cognitive-behavioural deficits was associated with age. Awareness of memory appeared to be a metamemory capacity. Mood and age rather than personality and cognition are stronger predictors of awareness in early Alzheimer's disease.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-245
Number of pages18
JournalCognitive Neuropsychiatry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 19 Sept 2011

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