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Everyday episodic memory in amnestic mild cognitive impairment: a preliminary investigation

Muireann Irish1234*, Brian A Lawlor1, Robert F Coen1 and Shane M O'Mara2

Author Affiliations

1 Mercer's Institute for Research on Aging, St. James's Hospital, Dublin, Ireland

2 Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland

3 Neuroscience Research Australia, Randwick, Sydney, Australia

4 School of Medical Sciences, the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

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BMC Neuroscience 2011, 12:80  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-12-80

Published: 4 August 2011



Decline in episodic memory is one of the hallmark features of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and is also a defining feature of amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), which is posited as a potential prodrome of AD. While deficits in episodic memory are well documented in MCI, the nature of this impairment remains relatively under-researched, particularly for those domains with direct relevance and meaning for the patient's daily life. In order to fully explore the impact of disruption to the episodic memory system on everyday memory in MCI, we examined participants' episodic memory capacity using a battery of experimental tasks with real-world relevance. We investigated episodic acquisition and delayed recall (story-memory), associative memory (face-name pairings), spatial memory (route learning and recall), and memory for everyday mundane events in 16 amnestic MCI and 18 control participants. Furthermore, we followed MCI participants longitudinally to gain preliminary evidence regarding the possible predictive efficacy of these real-world episodic memory tasks for subsequent conversion to AD.


The most discriminating tests at baseline were measures of acquisition, delayed recall, and associative memory, followed by everyday memory, and spatial memory tasks, with MCI patients scoring significantly lower than controls. At follow-up (mean time elapsed: 22.4 months), 6 MCI cases had progressed to clinically probable AD. Exploratory logistic regression analyses revealed that delayed associative memory performance at baseline was a potential predictor of subsequent conversion to AD.


As a preliminary study, our findings suggest that simple associative memory paradigms with real-world relevance represent an important line of enquiry in future longitudinal studies charting MCI progression over time.