Differences in learning rates for item and associative memories between amnestic mild cognitive impairment and healthy controls

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Abstract

Background: It has been established that the overall performance of associative memory was disproportionately impaired in contrast to item memory in aMCI (Amnestic mild cognitive impairment) patients, but little is known about the specific aspects of the memory process that show differences between aMCI and healthy controls. By comparing an item-item associative learning test with an individual item learning test, the present study investigated whether the rate of learning was slower in associative memory than in item memory in aMCI. Furthermore, we examined whether deficits in intertrial acquisition and consolidation contributed to the potential disproportionate impairments in the learning rate of associative memory for aMCI patients. In addition, we further explored whether the aMCI-discriminative power of the associative memory test increases more than that of the item memory test when the number of learning-test trials increases.Methods: A group of 40 aMCI patients and 40 matched control participants were administered a standardized item memory test (Auditory Verbal Learning Test, AVLT) and a standardized associative memory test (Paired Associative Learning Test, PALT), as well as other neuropsychological tests and clinical assessments.Results: The results indicated that the learning rate deficits in aMCI patients were more obvious for associative memory than for item memory and that the deficits resulted from impairments in both intertrial acquisition and consolidation. In addition, the receiver operating characteristic curve and logistical regression analysis revealed that the discriminative power of the associative memory test for aMCI was larger than that of the item memory test, especially with more than one learning-test trials.Conclusions: Due to more deficits in learning rate of associative memory than that of item memory, the discriminative power for aMCI tended to be larger in associative memory than in item memory when the number of learning-test trials increased. It is suggested that associative memory tests with multiple trials may be particularly useful for early detection of aMCI. © 2013 Wang et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

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Wang, P., Li, J., Li, H., & Zhang, S. (2013). Differences in learning rates for item and associative memories between amnestic mild cognitive impairment and healthy controls. Behavioral and Brain Functions, 9(1), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1186/1744-9081-9-29

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