35 Scopus citations


Memory dysfunction is a primary diagnostic criterion and one of the earliest clinical manifestations of dementia of the Alzheimer type (DAT). The profile of progression of this memory deficit is assumed to represent a unitary decline. We studied the profile of verbal memory decline using an immediate free recall learning task in 18 DAT patients judged to be at 3 different stages of severity (mildly, moderately, and severely affected), using the serial-position function as the dependent measure. Results showed that the pattern of performance of DAT patients depended upon the severity of the disease. With mild dementia, the U-shaped curve was qualitatively similar to that observed in normals (presence of primacy and recency effects). With increasing severity of dementia, there was a consistent modification of the serial-position function with, in moderately affected subjects, a progression toward a unimodal curve devoid of a primacy effect and, later on, a decrease of the recency effect. These findings suggest that the serial-position function shows dynamic changes across stages of DAT. These dynamic changes may imply distinct disturbances of 2 or more learning-memory processes in this condition. The processes involved presumably reflect the temporal nature of the pathologic involvement of distinct neural systems, both structural and neurochemical.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1477-1482
Number of pages6
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1989

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology


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