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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2003 Mar;5(1):61-76.

Age-related mild cognitive deficit: a ready-to-use concept?

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Director of Research and Development, FORENAP, Rouffach, France.


For better management of mild cognitive impairment in elderly patients, clinicians should be provided with instruments to detect early changes and predict their progression. To define this cognitive status between optimal and pathological aging, many concepts have been proposed, which actually describe various conditions and provide more or less precise criteria, leaving room for variable implementation. As a consequence, application of these criteria gave highly variable prevalence rates, Neuropathological studies indicate that the different criteria have variable power in detecting incipient Alzheimer's disease (AD) and suggest that the transition between mild cognitive impairment and ÀD is not merely quantitative. Follow-up studies have produced, according to the criteria used, a 2.5% to 16,6% annual rate for progression toward dementia, and have also shown that the criteria differ in their stability and predictive power. Baseline cognitive performances have some predictive value, but are difficult to apply in first-line medicine. Investigational techniques (structural and functional imaging, magnetic resonance spectroscopy, magnetization transfer imaging, cerebrospinal fluid neuro-chemistry, and apolipoprotein E genotype) are promising tools in the early diagnosis of AD, which remains the most frequent type of dementia in elderly people and probably the most frequent type developed by patients with mild cognitive deficit. The final goal is to offer early treatment to those patients who will evolve towards dementia, once they can be identified, in the case of AD, recent findings question the adequacy of cholinergic replacement therapies. In its current state, the criteria for mild cognitive deficit are hardly transferable to first-line medicine. However, disseminating the concept could help increase the sensitivity of general practitioners to the importance of cognitive complaints and signs in their elderly patients.


Alzheimer's disease; aging; cognition; dementia; treatment


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