Doctors Sometimes Miss Mild Cognitive Impairment

Medically Reviewed

Standard techniques for detecting mild cognitive impairment sometimes falsely classify individuals who have the condition as cognitively normal, new research shows.

Mild cognitive impairment is forgetfulness that is worse than normal for one's age but is not associated with certain cognitive problems common in dementia. A study from the March 2016 Journal of Alzheimer's Disease shows that the 520 participants, average age of 74, had been identified as cognitively unimpaired using typical criteria for impairment.

Study participants took additional cognitive tests that assessed their memory, language, and so-called processing speed and executive function (how quickly they could do simple tasks and their mental skills for getting things done, respectively), the results of which investigators subjected to additional criteria for identifying mild cognitive impairment.

Participants also underwent lumbar puncture for cerebral spinal fluid, which researchers examined for biomarkers of cognitive problems. In addition, investigators followed participants’ rate of cognitive decline during the subsequent 2 years.

Based on the collected information, investigators reclassified as having mild cognitive impairment about 7 percent of participants who previously had been identified as cognitively normal.

Keep these findings in mind if you still are worried about mild cognitive impairment after receiving professional reassurance that all is well. You may want to request in-depth neuropsychological testing from your doctor to make sure.