OBJECTIVE: To neuropsychologically and genetically compare age-associated memory impairment (AAMI) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) entities and to determine what proportion of AAMI diagnosed individuals could also receive a MCI diagnosis. To compare the distribution of a previously known genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (apolipoprotein E common polymorphism) associated with these two conditions with a sample of the normal aging.
DESIGN: Neuropsychological and genetic assessments in AAMI and MCI individuals. Genetic assessment in AAMI, MCI, and control subjects.
SETTING: General health centers and geriatric homes from northeastern Spain (Catalunya).
PARTICIPANTS: One hundred and four subjects presenting subjective memory complaints were selected and the AAMI and MCI criteria were applied. One hundred and twenty-four healthy Spanish subjects age 50 and older were defined as controls.
MEASUREMENTS: Memory, language, and frontal lobe functions were assessed using standard neuropsychological tests. The apolipoprotein E (apo E) polymorphism was obtained by using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and HhaI restriction endonuclease.
RESULTS: Sixty-seven percent of previously diagnosed AAMI individuals could also be identified as MCI subjects. These MCI cases differed from those only-AAMI individuals both in neuropsychological and genetic analyses, performing worse not only on memory but also on language and frontal lobe tests and presenting high and low prevalences of the apo E ε3/ε4 and ε3/ε3 genotypes, respectively. The general AAMI sample of 93 individuals also differed from controls in the apo E genotype and allele distributions but these differences were no longer present after subtracting the MCI cases (63 subjects). These findings reflect that the differences between the memory impaired sample and the control sample regarding the apo E polymorphism were mainly attributable to MCI individuals and not to those who received only a diagnosis of AAMI alone.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that among AAMI subjects, those who also fulfill the MCI criteria present a neuropsychological and genetic profile closer to that previously related to Alzheimer's disease than those individuals only eligible for a diagnosis of AAMI. However, our findings also suggest that using only the AAMI criteria still appears to select a population that differs genetically from the normal older population.