Cognitive Decline–Loss of Memory Not the Only Predictor

S. Duke Han, PhD

Mild cognitive impairment is often seen as a transition stage between the cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious problems of Alzheimer’s disease.  But what leads to mild cognitive impairment?  Researchers have long thought that loss of memory was the key factor, but not so, says neuropsychologist S. Duke Han, PhD, at Rush.

He and his colleagues have found that three other factors are involved:  poorer learning (though not necessarily so poor that the person is considered impaired); slower completion of motor tasks that are guided by visual attention; and depression.  Importantly, however, none of these factors alone predicted the onset of mild cognitive impairment a year later.  Poorer learning had to be accompanied either by slower motor function or by depression.  

Using an advanced statistical methodology that analyzed multiple variables at once, the researchers also found that neither gender nor the apolipoprotein E genotype—long believed to be risk factors for mild cognitive impairment—had any substantial influence.

To learn more, read the full news release.

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