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Neuropsychologia. 2011 Jul;49(9):2776-83. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.06.006. Epub 2011 Jun 12.

Face-name associative memory performance is related to amyloid burden in normal elderly.

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  • 1Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment, Department of Neurology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Cerebral amyloid beta (Aβ) deposition occurs in a substantial fraction of cognitively normal (CN) older individuals. However, it has been difficult to reliably detect evidence of amyloid-related cognitive alterations in CN using standard neuropsychological measures. We sought to determine whether a highly demanding face-name associative memory exam (FNAME) could detect evidence of Aβ-related memory impairment in CN. We studied 45 CN subjects (mean age=71.7 ± 8.8) with Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) scores=0 and MMSE ≥ 28, using Positron Emission Tomography with Pittsburgh Compound B (PiB PET). Memory factor scores were derived from a principal components analysis for FNAME name retrieval (FN-N), FNAME occupation retrieval (FN-O) and the 6-Trial Selective Reminding Test (SRT). Using multiple linear and logistic regression analyses, we related the memory factor scores to PiB distribution volume ratios (DVR, cerebellar reference) as either a continuous or a dichotomous variable in frontal cortex and a posterior cortical region representing the precuneus, posterior cingulate and lateral parietal cortices (PPCLP), co-varying for age and AMNART IQ (a proxy of cognitive reserve (CR)). A significant inverse relationship for FN-N was found with Aβ deposition in frontal (R(2)=0.29, β=-2.2, p=0.02) and PPCLP cortices (R(2)=0.26, β=-2.4, p=0.05). In contrast, neither FN-O nor the SRT were significantly related to Aβ deposition. Performance on a demanding test of face-name associative memory was related to Aβ burden in brain regions associated with memory systems. Associative memory for faces and names, a common complaint among older adults, may be a sensitive marker of early Aβ-related impairment.

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