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Prose memory tests exhibit ecological validity, but the influence of non-memory functions on immediate recall in elderly subjects with memory complaints has not been fully investigated. This study examined (1) whether the ability to immediately recall a story can distinguish among clinical controls, amnesic mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia due to Alzheimer's disease (AD) and (2) which cognitive functions contribute to immediate recall performance.
A total of 73 consecutive volunteers (50 women and 23 men) aged 47–88 (mean age = 71.85 ± 9.41) and with a mean schooling level of 12.51 (SD = 4.09) participated in the experiment. All individuals were seeking specialized evaluation because of memory complaints. Diagnoses were made by considering clinical, neuropsychological, and MRI assessments collected by a multidisciplinary team of neurologists, neuropsychologists, and speech-language therapists. A total of 26 individuals were classified as clinical controls; 27 as MCI patients; and 20 as having AD dementia. All individuals in the AD group had a Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) ≤ 1.
Immediate recall was only able to distinguish AD subjects from MCI patients and clinical controls (p > 0.05). Stepwise multiple linear regression analysis revealed that mental status (MMSE), semantic memory (WAIS-III vocabulary) and episodic memory (RAVLT primacy) explained approximately 62% of the variance in immediate recall.
Understanding the value and limitations of immediate story recall in distinguishing between MCI and AD may help clinicians in better choosing cognitive tests to diagnose MCI.