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Background:Elucidating associations between exposures to ambient air pollutants and profiles of cognitive performance may provide insight into neurotoxic effects on the aging brain. Objective:We examined associations between empirically derived profiles of cognitive performance and residential concentrations of particulate matter of aerodynamic diameter < 2.5 (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in older women. Method:Women (N = 2,142) from the Women’s Health Initiative Study of Cognitive Aging completed a neuropsychological assessment measuring attention, visuospatial, language, and episodic memory abilities. Average yearly concentrations of PM2.5 and NO2 were estimated at the participant’s addresses for the 3 years prior to the assessment. Latent profile structural equation models identified subgroups of women exhibiting similar profiles across tests. Multinomial regressions examined associations between exposures and latent profile classification, controlling for covariates. Result:Five latent profiles were identified: low performance across multiple domains (poor multi-domain; n = 282;13%), relatively poor verbal episodic memory (poor memory; n = 216; 10%), average performance across all domains (average multi-domain; n = 974; 45%), superior memory (n = 381; 18%), and superior attention (n = 332; 15%). Using women with average cognitive ability as the referent, higher PM2.5 (per interquartile range [IQR] = 3.64μg/m3) was associated with greater odds of being classified in the poor memory (OR = 1.29; 95% Confidence Interval [CI] = 1.10–1.52) or superior attention (OR = 1.30; 95% CI = 1.10–1.53) profiles. NO2 (per IQR = 9.86 ppb) was associated with higher odds of being classified in the poor memory (OR = 1.38; 95% CI = 1.17–1.63) and lower odds of being classified with superior memory (OR = 0.81; 95% CI = 0.67–0.97). Conclusion:Exposure to PM2.5 and NO2 are associated with patterns of cognitive performance characterized by worse verbal episodic memory relative to performance in other domains.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, volume 84, issue 4, in 2021 following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at


IOS Press



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