Individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) exhibit varying serial position effect (SPE) performances. The relationship between SPE performance in word list recall and clinical, genetic, and neuroimaging features of MCI requires elucidation. 119 MCI and 68 cognitively normal (CN) participants underwent cognitive assessment, apolipoprotein E (ApoE) genotyping, and volumetric MRI brain scans processed via voxel-based morphometry. A 10-word recall task was used to assess SPE performance in relation to recency and primacy recall. MCI participants were classified as having Good SPE performance (high primacy and recency, Good SPE) or Poor SPE performance (low primacy only, LP-SPE; low recency only, LR-SPE; or both low, Low SPE). Poor SPE participants had reduced grey matter (GM) volumes and increased white matter hyperintensities (WMH) volumes. Participants with LP-SPE demonstrated reduced hippocampal GM volumes and were more likely to be ApoE ε4 carriers. LR-SPE was associated with higher WMH volumes. Presence of both greater WMH volumes and ApoE ε4 resulted in Low SPE. LP-SPE MCI participants had features typical of Alzheimer's disease. LR-SPE MCI was associated with increased WMH volumes, likely representing vascular pathology. SPE profiles are associated with distinct clinical patterns of MCI pathophysiology and could have potential as a clinical marker.
Keywords: ApoE; MRI; cerebrovascular disease; mild cognitive impairment; serial position effect.