What is Mild Cognitive Impairment?~ Domenico Pratico, MD, FCPP

Mild Cognitive Impairment
The aging process affects our brain, much like the rest of our body, leading to gradual changes. Many individuals experience increasing forgetfulness over time, with delays in word recall or difficulty remembering names. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is a condition characterized by noticeable memory problems and/or other cognitive difficulties, such as language and visual-spatial skills. These issues are evident to the affected person and/or those around them, like family and friends, but they do not significantly disrupt daily life and usual activities.

MCI serves as an intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline associated with normal aging and the more severe decline seen in Alzheimer’s disease dementia. It encompasses challenges in memory, language, thinking, and judgment that surpass typical age-related changes.

Individuals with MCI typically score lower than their peers on neuropsychological assessments related to the affected cognitive areas, such as memory and language.

Research suggests that approximately 10-20% of older adults aged 65 and above may experience MCI. The disorder does not have a single cause, and its outcomes vary. Symptoms may remain stable, progress to Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia type, or even improve over time.

Over the years, some individuals diagnosed with MCI progress to Alzheimer’s disease, with estimates indicating that 10-15% of people with MCI convert each year. However, for reasons unknown, some individuals with MCI remain stable or experience improvement.

Doctors may diagnose individuals with specific MCI subtypes, such as Amnestic vs. Non-Amnestic MCI. Amnestic MCI involves significant memory impairment, while other cognitive functions remain intact. In non-amnestic MCI, memory remains unaffected, but one or more other cognitive abilities, like language or visual-spatial skills, are significantly impaired.

Currently, predicting whether a patient with MCI will progress to Alzheimer’s disease remains challenging. Ongoing studies aim to identify neuropsychological, neuropsychiatric, and imaging features of MCI that may indicate the risk of further decline towards Alzheimer’s disease.

Clinical studies involving brain imaging and the measurement of biomarker levels in blood or cerebrospinal fluids in people with MCI are crucial for detecting early brain changes akin to those seen in Alzheimer’s. These studies aid in determining prognosis and potential therapeutic approaches for individuals with MCI.

Check out the recent blog: “THE AGING BRAIN: Strategies for Sharpening Memory”

Domenico Praticò, MD, is the Scott Richards North Star Charitable Foundation Chair for Alzheimer’s Research, Professor and Director of the Alzheimer’s Center at Temple, and Professor of Pharmacology at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

You can find out more information on Dr. Domenico Pratico’s research papers here.

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