Terminal decline of episodic memory and perceptual speed in a biracial population

Robert S. Wilson, Kumar Rajan, Lisa L. Barnes, Willemijn Jansen, Priscilla Amofa, Jennifer Weuve, Denis A. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We compared trajectories of terminal cognitive decline in older Black (n = 3372) and White (n = 1756) persons from a defined population who completed tests of episodic memory and perceptual speed at 3-year intervals for up to 18 years. During a mean of 9.9 years of observation, 1608 Black persons and 902 White persons died. Preterminal decline of episodic memory did not differ by race. Terminal episodic memory decline began earlier in Black persons (mean of 4.3 years before death) than in White persons (mean = 3.9 years) and progressed more slowly. By contrast, terminal decline of perceptual speed began earlier in White persons (mean = 5.0 years) than in Black persons (mean = 4.5 years). Rate of perceptual speed decline was more rapid in White persons than in Black persons in both the preterminal and terminal periods. The results indicate that terminal cognitive decline occurs in Black persons but suggest that the rate of cognitive decline during the terminal period is less rapid in Black persons than in White persons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)378-389
Number of pages12
JournalAging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 4 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • episodic memory
  • longitudinal study
  • perceptual speed
  • racial differences
  • Terminal decline

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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