Mild memory impairment in healthy older adults is distinct from normal aging

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Mild memory impairment was detected in 28% of a sample of healthy community-dwelling older adults using the delayed recall trial of a word list learning task. Statistical analysis revealed that individuals with memory impairment also demonstrated relative deficits on other measures of memory, and tests of executive function, processing speed and global cognition, as measured by the CERAD and CogState batteries and CANTAB paired associate learning task. These relative deficits cannot be explained by age-related changes, education, intelligence, mood, health-related factors, or the individuals' ApoEε4 status. Memory-impaired individuals (n = 30) did not recognize the extent of their memory and cognitive difficulties beyond the general complaints expressed by normal elderly (n = 77) within the study and their apparent difficulties did not appear to impact on their participation in life activities. These findings suggest it is unlikely that the memory and cognitive difficulties demonstrated by individuals with mild memory impairment reflect normal aging. Rather it is possible that such impairment may signal early neurodegenerative processes worthy of further investigation.

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