Insights into spared memory capacity in amnestic MCI and Alzheimer's Disease via minimal interference

Michaela Dewar, Martina Pesallaccia, Nelson Cowan, Leandro Provinciali, Sergio Della Sala

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    41 Citations (Scopus)


    Impairment on standard tests of delayed recall is often already maximal in the aMCI stage of Alzheimer's Disease. Neuropathological work shows that the neural substrates of memory function continue to deteriorate throughout the progression of the disease, hinting that further changes in memory performance could be tracked by a more sensitive test of delayed recall. Recent work shows that retention in aMCI patients can be raised well above floor when the delay period is devoid of further material - 'Minimal Interference'. This memory enhancement is thought to be the result of improved memory consolidation. Here we used the minimal interference/interference paradigm (word list retention following 10min of quiet resting vs. picture naming) in a group of 17 AD patients, 25 aMCI patients and 25 controls. We found (1) that retention can be improved significantly by minimal interference in patients with aMCI and patients with mild to moderate AD; (2) that the minimal interference paradigm is sensitive to decline in memory function with disease severity, even when performance on standard tests has reached floor; and (3) that this paradigm can differentiate well (80% sensitivity and 100% specificity) between aMCI patients who progress and do not progress to AD within 2years. Our findings support the notion that the early memory dysfunction in AD is associated with an increased susceptibility to memory interference and are suggestive of a gradual decline in consolidation capacity with disease progression.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)189-199
    Number of pages11
    JournalBrain and Cognition
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012


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