Semantic memory impairment for biological and man-made objects in individuals with amnestic mild cognitive impairment or late-life depression

J Geriatr Psychiatry Neurol. 2015 Jun;28(2):108-16. doi: 10.1177/0891988714554708. Epub 2014 Oct 24.


Objective: Amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) and late-life depression (LLD) both increase the risk of developing Alzheimer disease (AD). Very little is known about the similarities and differences between these syndromes. The present study addresses this issue by examining the nature of semantic memory impairment (more precisely, object-based knowledge) in patients at risk of developing AD.

Methods: Participants were 17 elderly patients with aMCI, 18 patients with aMCI plus depressive symptoms (aMCI/D+), 15 patients with LLD, and 29 healthy controls. All participants were aged 55 years or older and were administered a semantic battery designed to assess semantic knowledge for 16 biological and 16 man-made items.

Results: Overall performance of aMCI/D+ participants was significantly worse than the 3 other groups, and performance for questions assessing knowledge for biological items was poorer than for questions relating to man-made items.

Conclusion: This study is the first to show that aMCI/D+ is associated with object-based semantic memory impairment. These results support the view that semantic deficits in aMCI are associated with concomitant depressive symptoms. However, depressive symptoms alone do not account exclusively for semantic impairment, since patients with LLD showed no semantic memory deficit.

Keywords: Alzheimer disease; depression; geriatric psychiatry; memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease
  • Amnesia / complications*
  • Amnesia / psychology*
  • Biological Products
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / complications*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology*
  • Depression / complications*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Late Onset Disorders / complications
  • Late Onset Disorders / psychology
  • Male
  • Manufactured Materials
  • Memory
  • Middle Aged
  • Semantics*
  • Syndrome


  • Biological Products