Passively-Measured Routine Home Computer Activity and Application Use Can Detect Mild Cognitive Impairment and Correlate with Important Cognitive Functions in Older Adulthood

John P.K. Bernstein, Katherine E. Dorociak, Nora Mattek, Mira Leese, Zachary T. Beattie, Jeffrey A. Kaye, Adriana Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Computer use is a cognitively complex instrumental activity of daily living (IADL) that has been linked to cognitive functioning in older adulthood, yet little work has explored its capacity to detect incident mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Objective: To examine whether routine home computer use (general computer use as well as use of specific applications) could effectively discriminate between older adults with and without MCI, as well as explore associations between use of common computer applications and cognitive domains known to be important for IADL performance. Methods: A total of 60 community-dwelling older adults (39 cognitively healthy, 21 with MCI) completed a neuropsychological evaluation at study baseline and subsequently had their routine home computer use behaviors passively recorded for three months. Results: Compared to those with MCI, cognitively healthy participants spent more time using the computer, had a greater number of computer sessions, and had an earlier mean time of first daily computer session. They also spent more time using email and word processing applications, and used email, search, and word processing applications on a greater number of days. Better performance in several cognitive domains, but in particular memory and language, was associated with greater frequency of browser, word processing, search, and game application use. Conclusion: Computer and application use are useful in identifying older adults with MCI. Longitudinal studies are needed to determine whether decreases in overall computer use and specific computer application use are predictors of incident cognitive decline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1053-1064
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The present study included participants from two observational cohort studies: 1) the Promote Independent Aging study, which was funded by Veterans Affairs Research & Development and carried out at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System (MVAHCS) in collaboration with the Oregon Center for Aging & Technology (ORCATECH) at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and the Collaborative Aging Research Using Technology initiative (CART;; and 2) the Aging Well study, which was funded by the National Institute on Aging and carried out at both the MVAHCS and at OHSU in collaboration with ORCATECH.

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by funding from the National Institutes of Health AG058687, P30AG024978, P30AG008017, and P30AG066518.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021-IOS Press. All rights reserved.


  • Aging
  • computer use
  • mild cognitive impairment
  • technology

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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