Changes in cognition.

Neurobiology of Aging
Marilyn S Albert


The clinical hallmark of Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a gradual decline in cognitive function. For the majority of patients the initial symptom is an impairment in episodic memory, i.e., the ability to learn and retain new information. This is followed by impairments in other cognitive domains (e.g., executive function, language, spatial ability). This impairment in episodic memory is evident among individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and can be used to predict likelihood of progression to dementia, particularly in association with AD biomarkers. Additionally, cognitively normal individuals who are likely to progress to mild impairment tend to perform more poorly on tests of episodic memory than do those who remain stable. This cognitive presentation is consistent with the pathology of AD, showing neuronal loss in medial temporal lobe structures essential for normal memory. Similarly, there are correlations between magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measures of medial temporal lobe structures and memory performance among individuals with mild cognitive impairment. There are recent reports that amyloid accumulation may also be associated with memory performance in cognitively normal individuals.


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