Differentiation between mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's disease and depression by means of cued recall

E Dierckx, S Engelborghs, R De Raedt, P P De Deyn, I Ponjaert-Kristoffersen
Psychological Medicine 2007, 37 (5): 747-55

BACKGROUND: Discriminating Alzheimer's disease (AD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) from depression is a challenge in psychogeriatric medicine. A study was set up to ascertain whether cued recall could be useful in differentiating early AD and MCI from depression among elderly individuals.

METHOD: The Visual Association Test (VAT) and the Memory Impairment Screen-plus (MIS-plus) were administered together with the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) to 40 MCI patients, 35 mild AD patients, 46 depressed patients and 52 healthy control subjects.

RESULTS: A one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) followed by post-hoc Scheffé tests showed that AD patients had significantly lower cued recall scores (i.e. combined VAT and MIS-plus scores) than MCI patients, who in turn had lower scores than depressed patients. The scores of depressed patients and controls were not significantly different. Discriminant analysis revealed that 94% of the AD patients and 96% of the depressed patients could be classified correctly by means of the GDS and the cued recall sores. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves identified an optimal cut-off score of 8 (maximum score 12) for differentiating AD and MCI patients from depressed elderly patients and controls. Applying this cut-off, a sensitivity of 83% (58%) and a specificity of 85% (85%) was obtained when differentiating AD (MCI) from depression.

CONCLUSIONS: Cued recall, operationalized by the combined scores of VAT and MIS-plus, is a useful method for differentiating AD patients from depressed individuals and healthy controls. Probably because of the great heterogeneity among MCI patients, the diagnostic power of cued recall decreases when applied to differentiate MCI from depression.

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