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Neurology. 1999 Apr 22;52(7):1392-6.

Selective decline in memory function among healthy elderly.

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Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center, Department of Neurology, Taub Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research in the City of New York, NY 10032, USA.



To use longitudinally acquired data to establish whether aging is associated with memory decline.


Memory loss is one of the most frequent complaints among the elderly. Nevertheless, age-related memory decline remains controversial in large part because it has been established with cross-sectional studies.


A total of 212 community-based healthy people were followed prospectively and evaluated annually with a neuropsychological battery testing memory and other cognitive domains. To control for the learning effect-the improvement in test performance associated with repeated exposure-longitudinal performance was compared between two age groups.


The older age group displayed a relative decline in memory performance with time. In contrast to memory, a relative age-related decline was not observed in tests of language, visuospatial ability, and abstract reasoning. Furthermore, within the memory domain, age-related decline was restricted to a specific aspect of memory, manifesting only in a measure sensitive to the acquisition and early retrieval of new information, and not in a measure of memory retention. This profile of age-related cognitive decline anatomically localizes to the hippocampal formation.


This study establishes age-related memory decline using longitudinal data, and shows that this decline does not occur diffusely across multiple cognitive domains. Both early AD as well as non-AD processes likely contribute to age-related memory decline, and continued follow-up may reveal distinguishing features between these two.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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