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Mild cognitive impairment: applicability of research criteria in a memory clinic and characterization of cognitive profile

  • DOI:
  • Published online: 23 January 2006

Background. We explored the applicability of recently proposed research criteria for mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in a memory clinic and changes in case definition related to which memory tests are used and the status of general cognitive function in MCI.

Method. A total of 166 consecutive GP referrals to the Cambridge Memory Clinic underwent comprehensive neuropsychological and psychiatric evaluation.

Results. Of 166 cases, 42 were excluded (significant depression 8, established dementia 29 and other disorders 5). Of 124 non-demented, non-depressed patients, 72 fulfilled Petersen's criteria for amnestic MCI based upon verbal memory performance [the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT)] and 90 met criteria if performance on verbal and/or non-verbal memory tests [the Rey figure recall or the Paired Associates Learning test (PAL)] was considered. Of the 90 broadly defined MCI cases, only 25 had pure amnesia: other subtle semantic and/or attention deficits were typically present. A further 12 were classed as non-amnestic MCI and 22 as ‘worried well’.

Conclusions. Definition of MCI varies considerably dependent upon the tests used for case definition. The majority have other cognitive deficits despite normal performance on the Mini-mental State Examination (MMSE) and intact activities of daily living (ADL) and fit within multi-domain MCI. Pure amnesic MCI is rare.

Corresponding author
MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, 15 Chaucer Road, Cambridge CB2 2EF, UK. (Email:
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Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
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