Memory tests able to differentiate encoding and retrieval processes from the memoranda storing ones should be used to differentiate patients in a very early phase of AD. In fact, individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) can be characterized by two different memory profiles: a pure amnestic one (with poor learning and retrieval and poor improvement when encoding is assisted and retrieval is facilitated) and a dysexecutive one (with inefficient encoding and/or poor retrieval strategies and improvement with assisted encoding and retrieval). The amnestic profile characterizes subjects affected by medio-temporal atrophy typical of AD. In this study, a Grober-Buschke memory procedure was used to evaluate normal controls and MCI patients with different cognitive profiles: pure amnestic (aMCIsd), amnestic plus other cognitive impairments (aMCImd) and non-amnestic (naMCI). An index of sensitivity of cueing (ISC) measured the advantage passing from free to cued recall. Results showed that both strategic and consolidation abilities were impaired in the aMCIsd and aMCImd groups and were preserved in the naMCI group. aMCImd, however, compensated the memory deficit with assisted encoding and retrieval, but aMCIsd performed very poorly. When MCI subjects were defined according to the ISC value, subjects with poor ISC were primarily in the aMCIsd group and, to a lesser extent, in the aMCImd group and the naMCI group. Finally, patients with a poor ISC showed cerebral atrophy documented in the precocious phase of AD and the retrosplenial cerebral areas seemed to be the most useful areas for identifying patients in the early phase of AD.
- Mild Cognitive impairment