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Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)
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Key features

  • Report of difficulty with memory or another core cognitive domain, preferably corroborated by an informant. Deficits relative to norms for age and education are objectively evident on a mental status exam or neuropsychological testing.

  • Normal overall cognition.

  • Generally intact function in usual daily activities.

  • The most common type is “amnestic MCI,” involving a primary memory complaint.

  • Older adults with MCI progress to dementia at a higher rate than those with no impairment, but progression is not inevitable. Rates of progression have varied considerably in different studies.


  • No treatments for MCI have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

    Results of a large, federally funded trial showed that 10 milligrams of donepezil (Aricept) daily reduced the risk of progressing from amnestic MCI to Alzheimer’s disease for about a year, but the benefit disappeared within three years.

    The study’s principal investigators said the results were not strong enough to clearly recommend donepezil as a treatment for MCI. However, it might be reasonable for patients and their physicians to talk about the possible benefits and risks of such treatment on an individual basis.

Pathological substrate

Scientists have not completely characterized this disorder. Amnestic MCI may be a forerunner of Alzheimer’s disease. Yet mild memory impairments could also be associated with preclinical signs of any dementing illness.

Studies have found that individuals diagnosed with amnestic MCI had some type of abnormality affecting key memory regions, and most seemed to be on their way toward meeting standards for Alzheimer’s. Most also had evidence of other abnormalities in addition to the characteristic plaques and tangles of Alzheimer’s disease.

For your patients and families: Mild Cognitive Impairment


Alzheimer's Association

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Formed in 1980, the Alzheimer's Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research.