Evidence suggests that Alzheimer's disease (AD) is part of a continuum, characterized by long preclinical phases before the onset of clinical symptoms. In several cases, this continuum starts with a syndrome, defined as mild cognitive impairment (MCI), in which daily activities are preserved despite the presence of cognitive decline. The possibility of having a reliable and sensitive neurophysiological marker that can be used for early detection of AD is extremely valuable because of the incidence of this type of dementia. In this study, we aimed to investigate the reliability of auditory mismatch negativity (aMMN) as a marker of cognitive decline from normal ageing progressing from MCI to AD. We compared aMMN elicited in the frontal and temporal locations by duration deviant sounds in short (400 ms) and long (4000 ms) inter-trial intervals (ITI) in three groups. We found that at a short ITI, MCI showed only the temporal component of aMMN and AD the frontal component compared to healthy elderly who presented both. At a longer ITI, aMMN was elicited only in normal ageing subjects at the temporal locations. Our study provides empirical evidence for the possibility to adopt aMMN as an index for assessing cognitive decline in pathological ageing.
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