Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) represents a transitional state between normal aging and dementia. However, there is inconsistent opinion as to the validity of subjective memory complaints as a criterion for diagnosis.
This study aimed to examine the potential significance of applying a short memory questionnaire in the assessment of Chinese subjects with MCI and early dementia.
Three hundred and six ambulatory Chinese subjects were recruited. Each participant completed a short memory questionnaire. They were also assessed with the Chinese versions of the mini-mental state examination (CMMSE), Alzheimer's disease assessment scale-cognitive subscale (ADAS-Cog), category verbal fluency test (CVFT) and span tests. Severity of cognitive impairment was evaluated using the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR); subjects with CDR 0.5 were further classified into MCI not demented (MCIND) and MCI possible incipient dementia (MCIID) depending on the subscale scores of CDR.
An increasing frequency of memory complaints with increasing CDR was observed (Kruskal Wallis test, chi square = 21.29, df 3, p < 0.001). With a cutoff of 3 or more memory complaints, the memory questionnaire demonstrated a sensitivity of 65.3% and 70.4% in identifying subjects with incipient and early dementia respectively. Significant associations between memory complaints and most cognitive test performance were found (Spearman's correlations, p < 0.01). Logistic regression analysis revealed that educational level, the memory questionnaire, ADAS-Cog total and delayed recall scores were significant predictors of MCIID status.
The findings suggested that a short memory questionnaire is useful in the screening of MCI, particularly in subjects who already present with subtle functioning disturbances. Subjective memory complaints were significant correlated with objective performance of memory functions, reflecting the usefulness of memory complaints in the assessment of MCI.