Short-term memory binding is impaired in AD but not in non-AD dementias

Sergio Della Sala, Mario Parra Rodriguez, Katia Fabi, Simona Luzzi, Sharon Abrahams

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    96 Citations (Scopus)


    Binding is a cognitive function responsible for integrating features within complex stimuli (e.g., shape-colour conjunctions) or events within complex memories (e.g., face-name associations). This function operates both in short-term memory (STM) and in long-term memory (LTM) and is severely affected by Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, forming conjunctions in STM is the only binding function which is not affected by healthy ageing or chronic depression. Whether this specificity holds true across other non-AD dementias is as yet unknown. The present study investigated STM conjunctive binding in a sample of AD patients and patients with other non-AD dementias using a task which has proved sensitive to the effects of AD. The STM task assesses the free recall of objects, colours, and the bindings of objects and colours. Patients with AD, frontotemporal dementia, vascular dementia, lewy body dementia and dementia associated with Parkinson's disease showed memory, visuo-spatial, executive and attentional deficits on standard neuropsychological assessment. However, only AD patients showed STM binding deficits. This deficit was observed even when memory for single features was at a similar level across patient groups. Regression and discriminant analyses confirmed that the STM binding task accounted for the largest proportion of variance between AD and non-AD groups and held the greatest classification power to identify patients with AD. STM conjunctive binding places little demands on executive functions and appears to be subserved by components of the memory network which are targeted by AD, but not by non-AD dementias.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)833-840
    Number of pages8
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012


    • Differential diagnosis
    • Non-Alzheimer's dementias
    • Short-term memory binding
    • Sporadic alzheimer's disease
    • Working memory

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Behavioral Neuroscience
    • Cognitive Neuroscience
    • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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