Mapping the Proxies of Memory and Learning Function in Senior Adults with High-performing, Normal Aging and Neurocognitive Disorders

J Alzheimers Dis. 2018;64(3):815-826. doi: 10.3233/JAD-180225.


Background: Memory and learning, as the core brain function, shows controversial results across studies focusing on aging and dementia. One of the reasons is because of the multi-faceted nature of memory and learning. However, there is still a dearth of comparable proxies with psychometric and morphometric portrait in clinical and non-clinical populations.

Objective: We aim to investigate the proxies of memory and learning function with direct and derived measures and examine their associations with morphometric features in senior adults with different cognitive status.

Methods: Based on two modality-driven tests, we assessed the component-specific memory and learning in the individuals with high performing (HP), normal aging, and neurocognitive disorders (NCD) (n = 488). Structural magnetic resonance imaging was used to measure the regional cortical thickness with surface-based morphometry analysis in a subsample (n = 52).

Methods: Compared with HP elderly, the ones with normal aging and minor NCD showed declined recognition memory and working memory, whereas had better learning performance (derived scores). Meanwhile, major NCD patients showed more breakdowns of memory and learning function. The correlation between proxies of memory and learning and cortical thickness exhibited the overlapped and unique neural underpinnings.

Conclusions: The proxies of memory and learning could be characterized by component-specific constructs with psychometric and morphometric bases. Overall, the constructs of memory are more likely related to the pathological changes, and the constructs of learning tend to reflect the cognitive abilities of compensation.

Keywords: Capacity; cortical thickness; learning; retention; working memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cognition Disorders / complications*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Independent Living
  • Learning Disabilities / diagnostic imaging
  • Learning Disabilities / etiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / diagnostic imaging
  • Memory Disorders / etiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • ROC Curve
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed