1.18.2005

What picture was that?
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The image of a cafe on a rainy day, a common sight in California recently

As many researcers have suggested, iconic memory, remembering images, plays a role in detecting early stage memory loss. Remembrance of repeated patterns also has been associated with detecting MCI, known as mild cognitive impairment. For example, Wes Ashford of the Stanford/VA Alzheimer's Center has an interesting series of these "iconic" images, which we'll be posting, along with other top tests from known experts. The imagery is reminiscent of Ezra Pound:

so much depends

upon


a red wheel

barrow


glazed with rain

water


beside the white

chickens


BEIJING, Jan. 18 -- Older people with mild cognitive impairment may have poor "iconic" memory, a subtle memory problem that could be taken as early sign of Alzheimer's disease risk, researchers said on Monday.

Iconic memory refers to the visual image a person holds onto after briefly looking at an object. It is fleeting in nature, regardless of a person's age.

To cite an example, if someone walked into a room, quickly scanned it, then turned off the lights and tried to recall the objects in the room, that would draw upon iconic memory, explained lead study author Dr. Zhong-Lin Lu, a professor of psychology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

In their study, Lu and his colleagues found that elderly men and women with mild cognitive impairment performed more poorly on a test of iconic memory than either young adults or older men and women with no signs of mental decline.

The findings are published in the advance online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Mild cognitive impairment -- which involves the type of "benign" forgetfulness in which a person frequently misplaces the car keys, for example -- is considered a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease.

Indeed, scientists estimate that about 80 percent of people with mild cognitive impairment develop Alzheimer's within 10 years, according to Lu.

Right now, mild cognitive impairment is diagnosed through standardized interviews rather than specific, sensitive tests, Reuters Health quoted Lu as saying.

If a decline in iconic memory is indeed an objective marker of mild impairment, Lu said, then testing for it may allow doctors to detect the earliest stages of Alzheimer's.

Finding new, objective and sensitive tests for early Alzheimer's is important, because current drug therapies designed to stabilize symptoms are most effective when started as early as possible, Lu said.



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