Background and ObjectivesIncreasing evidence indicates that a subset of cognitively normal individuals has subtle cognitive impairment at baseline. We sought to identify them using the Stages of Objective Memory Impairment (SOMI) system. Symptomatic cognitive impairment was operationalized by a Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) ≥0.5. We hypothesized that incident impairment would be higher for participants with subtle retrieval impairment (SOMI-1), higher still for those with moderate retrieval impairment (SOMI-2), and highest for those with storage impairment (SOMI-3/4) after adjusting for demographics and APOE ϵ4 status. A secondary objective was to determine whether including biomarkers of β-amyloid, tau pathology, and neurodegeneration in the models affect prediction. We hypothesized that even after adjusting for in vivo biomarkers, SOMI would remain a significant predictor of time to incident symptomatic cognitive impairment.MethodsAmong 969 cognitively normal participants, defined by a CDR = 0, from the Knight Alzheimer Disease Research Center, SOMI stage was determined from their baseline Free and Cued Selective Reminding Test scores, 555 had CSF and structural MRI measures and comprised the biomarker subgroup, and 144 of them were amyloid positive. Cox proportional hazards models tested associations of SOMI stages at baseline and biomarkers with time to incident cognitive impairment defined as the transition to CDR ≥0.5.ResultsAmong all participants, the mean age was 69.35 years, 59.6% were female, and mean follow-up was 6.36 years. Participants in SOMI-1-4 had elevated hazard ratios for the transition from normal to impaired cognition in comparison with those who were SOMI-0 (no memory impairment). Individuals in SOMI-1 (mildly impaired retrieval) and SOMI-2 (moderately impaired retrieval) were at nearly double the risk of clinical progression compared with persons with no memory problems. When memory storage impairment emerges (SOMI-3/4), the hazard ratio for clinical progression increased approximately 3 times. SOMI stage remained an independent predictor of incident cognitive impairment after adjusting for all biomarkers.DiscussionSOMI predicts the transition from normal cognition to incident symptomatic cognitive impairment (CDR ≥0.5). The results support the use of SOMI to identify those cognitively normal participants most likely to develop incident cognitive impairment who can then be referred for biomarker screening.