Short-Term Memory Loss and Alzheimer’s

Friday, September 30th, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

A study of screening tests for Alzheimer’s disease was recently published in the Archives of General Psychiatry and discussed by MedlinePlus, a publication of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Somewhat surprisingly, the Spanish researchers who conducted the investigation found short-term memory loss to be a stronger predictor of Alzheimer’s disease than variables known as "biomarkers" (for example, changes in the composition of cerebrospinal fluid or in brain volume).

Short-term memory loss is an important indication of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Persons with MCI may find it difficult to recall what they did the day before, may frequently lose their train of thought, and/or may feel challenged when trying to find their way around places that are actually familiar to them. These traits may also be accompanied by depression, anxiety, or uncharacteristic irritation and aggression. MCI does not necessarily progress to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, and persons with MCI often can function in a satisfactory manner despite some minor degree of memory loss.

The study involved more than 500 subjects, as follows:

  • 116 with MCI who developed Alzheimer’s within two years;
  • 201 with MCI who did not develop Alzheimer’s;
  • 197 with no cognitive problems.
  • The methods undertaken included:

  • Conducting measures of delayed memory;
  • Analyzing cerebrospinal fluid samples collected at baseline and then annually for two years;
  • Analyzing blood samples collected at baseline for genes associated with Alzheimer’s disease;
  • Assessing brain volume and cortical thickness through the use of magnetic resonance imaging.
  • Findings included the following:

  • The presence of MCI at baseline was a stronger predictor of Alzheimer’s disease than were most of the biomarkers;
  • Two measures of delayed memory — as well as the cortical thickness of the left middle temporal lobe — were linked with a higher risk of MCI developing into Alzheimer’s disease.
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