In a recent study, researchers found that in people older than 60, complains about poor memory could be a sign for mild cognitive decline.
Cognitive decline sometimes could predict Alzheimer’s disease.
The study was conducted by the University of Texas at Dallas. The lead author is psychological sciences doctoral student Marci Horn. Dr. Rodrigue is the senior author of the study.
Subjective memory is a person’s self-evaluation of how good his or her memory is, and whether there has been any worsening of memory through age.
The self-evaluation is often unscientific and reflect the person’s opinion.
To other people, the changes may be undetectable and are often too subtle to be detected on cognitive tests. But the person subjectively believes that his/her memory is slipping.
Previous studies have found that subjective memory complaints are not necessarily indicative of cognitive decline.
They may stem from underlying conditions such as anxiety and depression, which have been shown to impede memory.
In the current study, the team examined subjective memory complaints in nearly 200 healthy adults, ages 20 to 94.
They measured mood and screened out depressed participants.
They also measured participants for risk factors for memory loss and Alzheimer’s. This included beta-amyloid in the brain and a gene variant called ApoE4.
The study focused on associative memory performance. For example, remembering word pairs and name-face pairs.
This type of memory is very sensitive to age-related decline, and it is the most common complaint of aging individuals.
The team found that a person’s self-evaluation of his or her own memory could predict the performance on the memory test well.
This result was particularly true for individuals with genetic risk for memory loss and Alzheimer’s.
The researchers also found that men who had higher amyloid levels in the brain reported the most subjective memory complaints in the study.
The strongest link between subjective memory complaints and actual cognitive performance was in people older than 60 when people are generally at greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers suggest that awareness of memory changes may be a reliable indicator of one’s current memory ability, and may serve as another harbinger of future loss.
The researchers are following these people over time to further test this idea.
The study is published in Psychology and Aging.
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