Background: Difficulty in retrieving people's names is very common in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment. Such difficulty is often observed as the tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) phenomenon. The main aim of this study was to explore whether a famous people's naming task that elicited the TOT state can be used to discriminate between amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) patients and normal controls.
Methods: Eighty-four patients with aMCI and 106 normal controls aged over 50 years performed a task involving naming 50 famous people shown in pictures. Univariate and multivariate regression analyses were used to study the relationships between aMCI and semantic and phonological measures in the TOT paradigm.
Results: Univariate regression analyses revealed that all TOT measures significantly predicted aMCI. Multivariate analysis of all these measures correctly classified 70% of controls (specificity) and 71.6% of aMCI patients (sensitivity), with an AUC (area under curve ROC) value of 0.74, but only the phonological measure remained significant. This classification value was similar to that obtained with the Semantic verbal fluency test.
Conclusions: TOTs for proper names may effectively discriminate aMCI patients from normal controls through measures that represent one of the naming processes affected, that is, phonological access.