Short Digital Spatial Memory Test Detects Impairment in Alzheimer's Disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment

Brain Sci. 2021 Oct 14;11(10):1350. doi: 10.3390/brainsci11101350.


Background: Impairment in navigation abilities and object location memory are often seen in early-stage Alzheimer's Disease (AD), yet these constructs are not included in standard neuropsychological assessment. We investigated the differential ability of a short digital spatial memory test in mild AD dementia and mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Methods: 21 patients with AD dementia (66.9 ± 6.9; 47% female), 22 patients with MCI (69.6 ± 8.3; 46% female) and 21 patients with subjective cognitive decline (SCD) (62.2 ± 8.9; 48% female) from the Amsterdam Dementia Cohort performed the Object Location Memory Test (OLMT), consisting of a visual perception and memory trial, and the Virtual Tübingen (VT) test, consisting of a scene recognition, route continuation, route ordering and distance comparison task. The correlations with other cognitive domains were examined.

Results: Patients with mild AD dementia (Z: -2.51 ± 1.15) and MCI (Z: -1.81 ± 0.92) performed worse than participants with SCD (Z: 0.0 ± 1.0) on the OLMT. Scene recognition and route continuation were equally impaired in patients with AD dementia (Z: -1.14 ± 0.73; Z: -1.44 ± 1.13) and MCI (Z: -1.37 ± 1.25; Z: -1.21 ± 1.07). Route ordering was only impaired in patients with MCI (Z: -0.82 ± 0.78). Weak to moderate correlations were found between route continuation and memory (r(64) = 0.40, p < 0.01), and between route ordering and attention (r(64) = 0.33, p < 0.01), but not for the OLMT.

Conclusion: A short digital spatial memory test battery was able to detect object location memory and navigation impairment in patients with mild AD dementia and MCI, highlighting the value of incorporating such a test battery in standard neuropsychological assessment.

Keywords: cognitive dysfunction; dementia; early diagnosis; memory disorders; neuropsychology; spatial navigation.