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While declarative learning is dependent on the hippocampus, procedural learning and repetition priming can operate independently from the hippocampus, making them potential targets for behavioral interventions that utilize non-declarative memory systems to compensate for the declarative learning deficits associated with hippocampal insult. Few studies have assessed procedural learning and repetition priming in individuals with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI).
This study offers an overview across declarative, conceptual repetition priming, and procedural learning tasks by providing between-group effect sizes and Bayes Factors (BFs) comparing individuals with aMCI and controls. Seventy-six individuals with aMCI and 83 cognitively unimpaired controls were assessed. We hypothesized to see the largest differences between individuals with aMCI and controls on declarative learning, followed by conceptual repetition priming, with the smallest differences on procedural learning.
Consistent with our hypotheses, we found large differences between groups with supporting BFs on declarative learning. For conceptual repetition priming, we found a small-to-moderate between-group effect size and a non-conclusive BF somewhat in favor of a difference between groups. We found more variable but overall trivial differences on procedural learning tasks, with inconclusive BFs, in line with expectations.
The current results suggest that conceptual repetition priming does not remain intact in individuals with aMCI while procedural learning may remain intact. While additional studies are needed, our results contribute to the evidence-base that suggests that procedural learning may remain spared in aMCI and helps inform behavioral interventions that aim to utilize procedural learning in this population.
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