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Investigating Associative Learning Effects in Patients with Prodromal Alzheimer’s Disease Using the Temporal Context Model

  • Lisa Quenon (a1), Jean-Jacques Orban de Xivry (a1) (a2) (a3), Bernard Hanseeuw (a1) (a4) and Adrian Ivanoiu (a1) (a4)

The purpose of this study was to investigate associative learning effects in patients with prodromal Alzheimer’s disease (prAD) by referring to the Temporal Context Model (TCM; Howard, Jing, Rao, Provyn, & Datey, 2009), in an attempt to enhance the understanding of their associative memory impairment. TCM explains fundamental effects described in classical free-recall tasks and cued-recall tasks involving overlapping word pairs (e.g., A-B, B-C), namely (1) the contiguity effect, which is the tendency to successively recall nearby items in a list, and (2) the observation of backward (i.e., B-A) and transitive associations (i.e., A-C) between items. In TCM, these effects are hypothesized to rely on contextual representation, binding and retrieval processes, which supposedly depend on hippocampal and parahippocampal regions. As these regions are affected in prAD, the current study investigated whether prAD patients would show reduced proportions of backward and transitive associations in free and cued-recall, coupled to a reduced contiguity effect in free-recall. Seventeen older controls and 17 prAD patients performed a cued-recall task involving overlapping word pairs and a final free-recall task. Proportions of backward and transitive intrusions in cued-recall did not significantly differ between groups. However, in free-recall, prAD patients demonstrated a reduced contiguity effect as well as reduced proportions of backward and transitive associations compared to older controls. These findings are discussed within the hypothesis that the contextual representation, binding and/or retrieval processes are affected in prAD patients compared to healthy older individuals. (JINS, 2015, 21, 699–708)

Corresponding author
Correspondence and reprint requests to: Lisa Quenon, Clinique universitaires Saint-Luc, Centre de Revalidation Neuropsychologique, Avenue Hippocrate 10, 1200 Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, Belgium. E-mail:
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