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The validity of supplementing the three-item recall portion of the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) with a cued recall procedure to help specify the nature of patients' memory problems was examined.Subjects were 247 individuals representing three diagnostic groups: Alzheimer's disease (AD), subcortical vascular ischemic dementia (SVaD), and normal controls. Individuals were administered a battery of neuropsychological tests, including the MMSE, as part of a comprehensive evaluation for the presence of dementia or other neurologic disorder.MMSE performance differed among groups. The three-item free recall performance also differed among groups, with post hoc analyses revealing the AD and SVaD groups were more impaired than controls but did not differ significantly from each other. Following a cued recall procedure of the MMSE three-items, groups differed, with post hoc analyses showing that AD patients failed to benefit from cues, whereas SVaD patients performed significantly better and comparable to control subjects. Significant correlations between the MMSE three-item cued recall performance and other memory measures demonstrated concurrent validity.Consistent with previous research indicating that SVaD is associated with memory encoding and retrieval deficits, whereas AD is associated with consolidation and storage problems, the present study supported the validity of the cued recall procedure of the three items on the MMSE in helping to distinguish between patients with AD and those with a vascular dementia with primarily subcortical pathology; however, despite these findings, a more extensive battery of neuropsychological measures is still recommended to consistently assess subtle diagnostic differences in these memory processes.