Hyperfamiliarity is a phenomenon where new stimuli are perceived as familiar. Previous studies have demonstrated familiarity disorder in mild cognitive impairment (MCI), but mostly from the perspective of a neuropsychological approach, and the exact correlation of MCI aetiologies with the phenomenon remains uncertain. Based on current evidence suggesting a frontal-subcortical pathway contributing to familiarity processing, we hypothesize that individuals with a vascular aetiology of MCI will likely suffer more familiarity deficits. This study aims to examine the real-life hyperfamiliarity symptoms in amnestic versus vascular MCI.
Informants of 11 amnestic and 9 vascular cognitive impairment patients were interviewed about the frequency of hyperfamiliarity symptoms in the previous month. MRI brain images of vascular cognitive impairment patients were analysed as well.
Patients with vascular cognitive impairment with no dementia (VCIND) showed a significantly higher frequency of hyperfamiliarity for people but not places or objects. Within VCIND patients, overall basal ganglia hyperintensities, particularly in the putamen, were found to significantly correlate to hyperfamiliarity.
Patients with VCIND suffer more real-life hyperfamiliarity during people recognition compared to patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI), despite a comparative global decline in cognitive. This is likely due to impaired memory retrieval and matching processes resulting from subcortical ischaemic lesions.