Forgetting Rates on the Recency Portion of a Word List Predict Conversion from Mild Cognitive Impairment to Alzheimer's Disease

Chiara Stella Turchetta, Maria Stefania De Simone, Roberta Perri, Lucia Fadda, Giulia Caruso, Massimo De Tollis, Carlo Caltagirone, Giovanni Augusto Carlesimo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Amnestic mild cognitive impairment has a greater risk of progressing to Alzheimer's disease (AD). Consistent with AD patients' distinctive deficit in consolidating new memory traces, in a recent study we demonstrated that the forgetting rate on the recency portion of a word list differentiates AD from other forms of dementia. In line with this finding, the aim of this study was to investigate whether increased recency forgetting could be a reliable index for predicting amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI) patients' conversion to AD. For this purpose, we compared accuracy in immediate and delayed recall from different portions of a word list in a group of patients with amnestic MCI who converted (C-MCI) or did not convert (S-MCI) to AD during a three-year follow-up period and in a group of normal controls. The results of the present study show that the forgetting from the recency portion of the list (operationalized as a ratio between immediate and delayed recall) was significantly larger in C-MCI than in S-MCI patients. Consistently, the hierarchical logistic regression analyses demonstrated that the recency ratio is a strong predictor of group membership. Similar to what occurs in full-blown AD patients, the results of our study suggest that the increased forgetting rate from the recency portion of the list in C-MCI patients is due to severely reduced efficiency in converting transitory short-term memory representations into stable long-term memory traces. This is consistent with prominent involvement of neuropathological changes in the cortical areas of the medialoral lobes and suggests that the recency ratio is a cognitive marker able to identify MCI patients who have a greater likelihood of progressing to AD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1295-1304
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • forgetting rate
  • memory disorders
  • mild cognitive impairment
  • recency effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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