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5 May 2016

Evaluating familiarity deficits related to conversion of MCI to Alzheimer’s disease

The early identification of individuals at risk of Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is of primary importance for the development of new effective interventions to stop the progression of the disease before the onset of severe neurodegeneration and clinical manifestations. 

The early identification of individuals at risk of Alzheimer Disease (AD) is of primary importance for the development of new effective interventions to stop the progression of the disease before the onset of severe neurodegeneration and clinical manifestations. Recognition and familiarity are two distinct and independent processes involved in recognition memory. Past research suggests that these two processes rely on medial temporal lobe regions that are affected in the very early stages of AD. Thus, familiarity and recollection could potentially represent novel cognitive markers for impending AD.

As part of my research project, I investigated familiarity and recollection performances in cognitively normal ageing individuals and individuals with mild cognitive impairment to define if these performances could differentiate healthy from neuropathological aging. I used the CANTAB tests available as part of CANTAB Connect to characterize cognitive profiles of research participants and to estimate the areas and extent of cognitive impairment.

We used the following six CANTAB tests:

Motor Screening Task - MOT
This test is a great way of introducing the touchscreen to the participants, as well as providing a general  assay of whether sensorimotor or comprehension difficulties limit collecting valid data.

Paired Associates Learning - PAL
This test assesses visual memory and new learning, and has proven sensitivity in assessing individuals with questionable dementia, mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's disease, and age-related memory loss.

Spatial Working Memory - SWM
This test requires retention and manipulation of visuospatial information. This self-ordered test has notable executive function demands, and measures strategy use as well as errors.

Reaction Time - RTI
This test provides assays of motor and mental response speeds, as well as measures of movement time, reaction time, response accuracy and impulsivity.

Rapid Visual Information Processing - RVP
This test measures sustained attention. Outcome measures for this test include response accuracy, target sensitivity, and reaction times.

Delayed Matching to Sample - DMS
This test assesses forced choice recognition memory for non-verbalisable patterns, testing both simultaneous matching and short term visual memory.

Overall, participants responded well to the cognitive tests chosen from the 12 available on the CANTAB Connect Research assessment system. The use of the iPad gave a playful aspect to the testing situation. Further, the CANTAB Connect Research was easy and fast to administer, with participants taking approximately 40 minutes to complete the battery. The results provided a quantification of performances on many relevant cognitive domains such as associative memory, processing speed and working memory, withthe data being easily extractable and outputted in an analysis-friendly disposition.

The data collected as part of the research project is currently being reviewed and analysed and we are hoping that the results will help us characterize familiarity and recollection performances in the course of ageing and mild cognitive impairment. In the future, we wish to follow recruited participants longitudinally to define if any baseline measures accurately predict cognitive decline and change in cognitive status over time.

You could gain funding for your research through the CANTAB Research Grant too, apply today.

Tags : cantab research grant | alzheimer's disease | cognitive testing

Author portrait

Written by
Dorothee Schoemaker
McGill University
2015 CANTAB Research Grant Winner