Utility of the pareidolia test in mild cognitive impairment with Lewy bodies and Alzheimer's disease.
OBJECTIVES: Previous research has identified that dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) has abnormal pareidolic responses which are associated with severity of visual hallucinations (VH), and the pareidolia test accurately classifies DLB with VH. We aimed to assess whether these findings would also be evident at the earlier stage of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) with Lewy bodies (MCI-LB) in comparison to MCI due to AD (MCI-AD) and cognitively healthy comparators. METHODS: One-hundred and thirty-seven subjects were assessed prospectively in a longitudinal study with a mean follow-up of 1.2 years (max = 3.7): 63 MCI-LB (22% with VH) and 40 MCI-AD according to current research diagnostic criteria, and 34 healthy comparators. The pareidolia test was administered annually as a repeated measure. RESULTS: Probable MCI-LB had an estimated pareidolia rate 1.2-6.7 times higher than MCI-AD. Pareidolia rates were not associated with concurrent VH, but had a weak association with total score on the North East Visual Hallucinations Inventory. The pareidolia test was not an accurate classifier of either MCI-LB (Area under curve (AUC) = 0.61), or VH (AUC = 0.56). There was poor sensitivity when differentiating MCI-LB from controls (41%) or MCI-AD (27%), though specificity was better (91% and 89%, respectively). CONCLUSIONS: Whilst pareidolic responses are specifically more frequent in MCI-LB than MCI-AD, sensitivity of the pareidolia test is poorer than in DLB, with fewer patients manifesting VH at the earlier MCI stage. However, the high specificity and ease of use may make it useful in specialist clinics where imaging biomarkers are not available.