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Lowered performance in working memory and attentional sub-processes are most prominent in multi-domain amnestic mild cognitive impairment subtypes

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Abstract

Background

Research suggests that working memory and attention deficits may be present in mild cognitive impairment (MCI). However, the functional status of these domains within revised MCI subtypes remains unclear, particularly because previous studies have examined these cognitive domains with the same tests that were used to classify MCI subtypes. The aim of this study was to examine working memory and attention function in MCI subtypes on a battery of neuropsychological tests that were distinct from those used to classify MCI subtypes

Methods

A total of 122 adults aged 60–90 years were classified at baseline as amnestic MCI, non-amnestic MCI, and multi-domain amnestic (a-MCI+). The attentional and working memory capacity of participants was examined using a battery of tests distinct from those used to classify MCI at screening.

Results

The a-MCI+ group demonstrated the poorest performance on all working memory tasks and specific sub-processes of attention. The non-amnestic MCI group had lowered performance on visual span and complex sustained attention only. There was no evidence of either attentional or working memory impairment in the amnestic MCI participants.

Conclusion

When MCI cohorts are assessed on measures distinct from those used at classification, a-MCI+ subjects had the most compromised working memory and attention function. These results support previous findings that suggest a-MCI+ more closely resembles early stage Alzheimer's disease and those with a-MCI+ may be at increased rate of future cognitive decline compared to those with other MCI subtypes.

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