BACKGROUND: Standard measures of commonly used memory tests may not be appropriate to distinguish different neurodegenerative diseases affecting memory.
OBJECTIVE: To study whether specific measures of verbal memory obtained with the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning test (RAVLT) could help distinguish dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) from Alzheimer's disease (AD).
METHODS: Twenty-nine DLB and 32 AD patients participated in the study and were followed longitudinally for 3 years until the diagnosis was confirmed according to standard clinical criteria. Twenty-eight healthy elderly subjects served as controls. The following verbal memory measures were evaluated: verbal learning (VL), verbal forgetting (VF), percentage of verbal forgetting (VF%), and serial position effects of the immediate recall performance.
RESULTS: DLB and AD groups have comparable performances at the RAVLT immediate and delayed recall tasks. However, VL was higher in DLB than AD while VF% was greater in AD. With a VF% cut-off ≥75%, AD and DLB patients were differently distributed, with 58% of AD versus 21% of DLB above this cut-off. The recency effect was significant higher in AD than DLB.
DISCUSSION: DLB patients had a better performance in VL than AD, but worse VF and recency effect. These specific measures of verbal memory could be used as cognitive markers in the differential diagnosis between these two conditions.