Heterogeneous disease trajectories of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia are frequently encountered in clinical practice, but there is still insufficient knowledge to understand the reasons and mechanisms causing this heterogeneity. In addition to correlates of the disorder, patient characteristics such as their health status, social environment, comorbidities and frailty may contribute to variability in trajectories over time. The current paper outlines the study design and the study population of and provides an overview of the data collected in the Clinical Course of Cognition and Comorbidity in Mild Cognitive Impairment (4C-MCI cohort, n = 315) and Dementia (4C-Dementia cohort, n = 331) Study.
The two complementary longitudinal cohorts part of the 4C study began enrolment in March 2010. Participants were prospectively recruited from three collaborating Dutch Alzheimer Centers, with three annual follow-up assessments after baseline. Extensive neuropsychological assessments, and detailed profiling of comorbidities, health and frailty at each follow up were the key features of the 4C study. As such, the 4C study was designed to study if and how patients’ comorbidities and frailty are associated with the course of MCI and dementia measured with a comprehensive and multidimensional set of outcomes including cognition, daily functioning, quality of life, behavioral disturbances, caregiver burden, institutionalization and death and whether the effects of medical health and frailty differ between MCI and dementia stages of cognitive disorders.
Sampled in a clinical setting, the 4C study complements population-based studies on neurodegenerative disorders in terms of the type of assessment (e.g. comorbidity, frailty, and functional status were repeatedly assessed). The 4C study complements available clinical cohorts of MCI and dementia patients, because the exclusion criteria were kept to a minimum, to obtain a sample that is representative for the average patient visiting a memory clinic.