Distinct medial temporal contributions to different forms of recognition in amnestic mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease

Carmen Westerberg*, Andrew Mayes, Susan M. Florczak, Yufen Chen, Jessica Creery, Todd Parrish, Sandra Weintraub, M. Marsel Mesulam, Paul J. Reber, Ken A. Paller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The simplest expression of episodic memory is the experience of familiarity, the isolated recognition that something has been encountered previously. Brain structures of the medial temporal lobe (MTL) make essential contributions to episodic memory, but the distinct contributions from each MTL structure to familiarity are debatable. Here we used specialized tests to assess recognition impairments and their relationship to MTL integrity in people with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI, n=19), people with probable Alzheimer's disease (AD; n=10), and age-matched individuals without any neurological disorder (n=20). Recognition of previously presented silhouette objects was tested in two formats-forced-choice recognition with four concurrent choices (one target and three foils) and yes/no recognition with individually presented targets and foils. Every foil was extremely similar to a corresponding target, such that forced-choice recognition could be based on differential familiarity among the choices, whereas yes/no recognition necessitated additional memory and decision factors. Only yes/no recognition was impaired in the aMCI group, whereas both forced-choice and yes/no recognition were impaired in the AD group. Magnetic resonance imaging showed differential brain atrophy, as MTL volume was reduced in the AD group but not in the aMCI group. Pulsed arterial spin-labeled scans demonstrated that MTL blood flow was abnormally increased in aMCI, which could indicate physiological dysfunction prior to the emergence of significant atrophy. Regression analyses with data from all patients revealed that regional patterns of MTL integrity were differentially related to forced-choice and yes/no recognition. Smaller perirhinal cortex volume was associated with lower forced-choice recognition accuracy, but not with lower yes/no recognition accuracy. Instead, smaller hippocampal volumes were associated with lower yes/no recognition accuracy. In sum, familiarity memory can be specifically assessed using the forced-choice recognition test, it declines later than other MTL-dependent memory functions as AD progresses, and it has distinct anatomical substrates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2450-2461
Number of pages12
Issue number12
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Amnestic mild cognitive impairment
  • Episodic memory
  • Familiarity
  • Recognition memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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