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Distinctive neuropsychological profiles differentiate patients with functional memory disorder from patients with amnestic-mild cognitive impairment

  • Sarah J Wakefield (a1), Daniel J Blackburn (a1) (a2), Kirsty Harkness (a2), Aijaz Khan (a2), Markus Reuber (a1) (a2) and Annalena Venneri (a1) (a2)...

Patients with functional memory disorder (FMD) report significant memory failures in everyday life. Differentiating these patients from those with memory difficulties due to early stage neurodegenerative conditions is clinically challenging. The current study explored whether distinctive neuropsychological profiles could be established, suitable to differentiate patients with FMD from healthy individuals and those experiencing amnestic mild cognitive impairment (a-MCI).


Patients with a clinical diagnosis of FMD were compared with patients with a-MCI, and healthy matched controls on several tests assessing different cognitive functions. Patients with clinically established mood disorders were excluded. Patients with FMD and a-MCI were broadly comparable on the level of their subjective memory complaints as assessed by clinical interview.


The neuropsychological profile of the FMD patients, although they expressed subjective memory and attention concerns during their clinical interview was distinct from patients with a-MCI on tests of memory [semantic fluency, age of acquisition (AoA) analysis of semantic fluency, verbal and non-verbal memory]. FMD patients did not differ significantly from healthy controls, but their scores on the letter fluency and digit cancellation tasks were not significantly different from those of the a-MCI patients indicating a possible sub-threshold deficit on these tasks.


Whilst subjective complaints are common within the FMD population, no objective impairment could be detected, even on a sensitive battery of tasks designed to detect subtle deficits caused by an early neurodegenerative brain disease. This study indicates that FMD patients can be successfully differentiated from patients with neurodegenerative memory decline by characterising their neuropsychological profile.

Corresponding author
Prof. Annalena Venneri, Department of Neuroscience, Medical School, Beech Hill Road, Sheffield S10 2RX, UK. Tel: +44 114 2713430; Fax: +44 114 2222290 E-mail:
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Acta Neuropsychiatrica
  • ISSN: 0924-2708
  • EISSN: 1601-5215
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