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Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2010 Feb;25(2):121-32. doi: 10.1002/gps.2314.

Working memory in early Alzheimer's disease: a neuropsychological review.

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Section of Old Age Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK.



Reports of the extent of working memory (WM) impairment in early Alzheimer's disease (AD) have been inconsistent. Using the model of WM proposed by Baddeley, neuropsychological evidence for the impairment of WM in early AD is evaluated.


Literature searches were performed using Medline, PsycINFO and Embase databases. Individual papers were then examined for additional references not revealed by computerised searches.


Phonological loop function is intact at the preclinical and early stages of AD, becoming more impaired as the disease progresses. In mild AD, there is impairment on tasks assessing visuospatial sketchpad (VSS) function; however, these tasks also require executive processing by the central executive system (CES). There is evidence that the CES is impaired in mild AD and may be affected in the earlier preclinical stage of the disease. Episodic buffer function may be impaired but further research is required.


Future research into central executive functioning at the earliest stages of the disease, combined with further longitudinal studies, needs to be carried out. Tasks to assess the proposed functions of the episodic buffer and specific tests of the VSS suitable for AD subjects need to be developed and validated. Learning more about these processes and how they are affected in AD is important in understanding and managing the cognitive deficits seen in the early stages of AD.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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