Memory difficulties are not always a sign of incipient dementia: A review of the possible causes of loss of memory efficiency

Daniel J. Blackburn, Sarah Wakefield, Michael F. Shanks, Kirsty Harkness, Markus Reuber, Annalena Venneri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction or background Memory problems are a very common reason for presenting to primary care. There is a need for better treatments for dementia. Increased government and media interest may result in greater number seeking help for memory problems, which may not reduce the dementia gap but rather increase numbers seen who do not have dementia. This review highlights the issues around the diagnostic criteria and terminology used for people with memory complaints. Sources of data A comprehensive literature search using PubMed using keywords for articles on subjective memory decline (SMD)/impairment/complaints, subjective cognitive decline (SCD), mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and functional memory disorder (FMD). Areas of agreement There is a need for early accurate detection of dementia syndromes so that trials of new treatments can begin earlier on the disease process. Areas of controversy Diagnostic criteria and terminology used for disorders of memory including SCD, MCI and FMD. Growing points This article reviews SCD and whether this can be used to predict Alzheimer's disease. The review also discusses the terminology used for non-progressive memory problems and the long-term outcomes for this patient group. Areas timely for developing research The accurate distinction of premorbid dementia syndromes from benign non-progressive memory problems. Studies of treatment options for people with benign non-progressive memory problems and longer-term follow-up to determine which patients develop chronic problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-81
Number of pages11
JournalBritish Medical Bulletin
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2014


  • dementia
  • functional memory disorder
  • mild cognitive impairment
  • subjective cognitive decline

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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