Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

    • In contrast to Alzheimer’s where other cognitive skills are affected, mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is defined by deficits in memory that do not significantly impact daily functioning. Memory problems may be minimal to mild and hardly noticeable to the individual.
    • Writing reminders and taking notes allow a person to compensate for memory difficulties. Unlike Alzheimer’s where cognitive abilities gradually decline, the memory deficits in MCI may remain stable for years. However, some individuals with MCI develop cognitive deficits and functional impairment consistent with Alzheimer’s.
    • Whether MCI is a disorder distinct from Alzheimer’s or a very early phase of Alzheimer’s is a topic of continuing investigation.
    • The diagnosis of MCI relies on the fact that the individual is able to perform all their usual activities successfully, without more assistance from others than they previously needed.

Signs and symptoms include:

      • Memory complaints include trouble remembering the names of people they met recently, trouble remembering the flow of a conversation and an increased tendency to misplace things or similar problems. In many cases, the individual will be quite aware of these difficulties and will compensate with increased reliance on notes and calendars. These problems are similar, but less severe, than the neuropsychological findings associated with Alzheimer’s disease. In some cases, the patient may have mild difficulties with daily activities, such as performing hobbies.

Progression of MCI:

      • Certain features are associated with a higher likelihood of progression from MCI to Alzheimer’s. These include confirmation of memory difficulties by a knowledgeable informant (such as a spouse, child or close friend), poor performance on objective memory testing, and any changes in the ability to perform daily tasks, such as hobbies or finances, handling emergencies or attending to one’s personal hygiene.

Treatment of MCI:

      • There is currently no specific treatment for MCI. As new medical interventions for Alzheimer’s disease are developed, these are likely to be tried on patients with MCI as well. If data from such trials indicates a beneficial effect in slowing cognitive decline, the importance of recognizing MCI and identifying it early will increase. However, it is important to remember some drugs may impair memory, especially in older adults.