Background: The assessment of semantic memory may be a useful marker to identify individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) who will progress to Alzheimer's disease (AD) in the early stages of the disease.
Objective: The aim of this five-year follow-up longitudinal study is to assess whether semantic assessment could predict progression in MCI.
Methods: A population of MCI (N = 251); mild (N = 178) and moderate AD (N = 114); and a sample of healthy participants (HP; N = 262) was investigated. The five-year follow-up of the MCI group was completed by 178 patients. Semantic and episodic memory measures were used, including a measure of the discrepancy between categorical and phonological verbal fluency, the semantic-phonological delta (SPD). The main outcome was the progression of MCI due to AD to dementia.
Results: A general linear model showed a significant effect of diagnosis on SPD (Wilks' Lambda = 0.591; p < 0.001). The estimated marginal means were -0.91 (SE = 0.185) in HP, -1.83 (SE = 0.187) in MCI, -1.16 (SE = 0.218) in mild AD, and -1.02 (SE = 0.275) in moderate AD. Post-hoc comparisons showed a significant difference between MCI and HP (p < 0.001). The follow-up was completed by 178 MCI individuals. SPD in MCI patients who progress to dementia was significantly lower than in MCI that will not progress (p = 0.003). Together with the Mini-Mental State Examination, the SPD was the only measure with a significant predicting effect at the five-years follow-up (p = 0.016).
Conclusion: The SPD indicate the impairment of semantic memory in individuals with underlying AD at the MCI early stage, reflecting the early involvement of perirhinal and entorhinal cortices in the earliest stages of AD neuropathological process.
- Alzheimer’s disease
- category fluency task
- mild cognitive impairment