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Verbal learning in Alzheimer's dementia

  • ALMA AU (a1), AGNES S. CHAN (a2) and HELEN CHIU (a3)


Many recent findings in Western countries suggest that episodic recall is the most sensitive discriminator between patients with mild Alzheimer disease (AD) and the normal elderly, while semantic memory tends best to differentiate between moderate and severe AD patients. The present study is the first to examine in detail the episodic memory of Chinese AD patients in Hong Kong with a locally developed list learning test, comparing procedures that do or do not encourage the use of semantic organization. The performance of 28 AD patients was compared to that of 30 normal controls. AD patients did significantly worse in terms of acquisition and retention and also benefited significantly less from external organization cues. In the discriminant function analysis, the rate of forgetting in the random condition and the total retention score in the blocked condition were found to be the best predictors for differentiating between AD patients and controls. On the other hand, in the differentiation between mild and moderate AD, semantic clustering in the blocked condition was found to be the best predictor. Results of the present study were discussed in the light of the previous findings reported in the Western countries and the neuropathological changes of AD patients. (JINS, 2003, 9, 363–375.)


Corresponding author

Reprint requests to: Alma Au, Department of Clinical Psychology, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, 30 Gascoigne Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China. E-mail:



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