Date of Award

Fall 9-9-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Tricia King, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Felicia Goldstein, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Ann Pearman, Ph.D

Fourth Advisor

Erin Tone, Ph.D.

Abstract

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia and is characterized by a gradual deterioration of the patients’ ability to independently perform day to day activities. Researchers have discovered significant changes in neuroanatomy, cognition and behavior that are related to the disease process of AD and researchers continue to uncover new variables, such as the presence of vascular risk factors, which may further increase our ability to understand and characterize the disease. The purpose of this study is to identify the neuroanatomical, cognitive and behavioral variables that best predict impairment of instrumental activities of daily living in individuals with probable AD.

Reduced white matter integrity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex as well as the presence of vascular risk factors significantly predicted impairments in activities of daily living (ADLs). Executive functioning skills, typically described as frontal lobe system behaviors, were positively associated with ADLs. Further, executive functions fully mediated the relationship between frontal lobe white matter integrity and ADLs. A better understanding of the variables responsible for diminished ADLs in AD will allow researchers and clinicians to better target prevention and intervention strategies and ultimately help individuals with AD to maintain their independence for a longer duration.

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