, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 119-169

Memory deficits in Alzheimer's patients: A comprehensive review


Despite considerable experimental work on Alzheimer's disease (AD), the underlying cognitive mechanisms as well as the precise localization of neuropathological changes critical for memory loss remains undefined. A review of the neuropsychological literature on long-term memory deficits in AD patients suggests that AD patients display (a) a pervasive deficit of explicit memory, (b) a partial deficiency of implicit memory for verbal and visuoperceptual material (as measured by repetition priming procedures), and (c) a substantial sparing of implicit memory for visuomotor skills. The explicit memory loss is likely a result of encoding as well as consolidation difficulties. A faulty lexical-semantic knowledge structure appears responsible for deficient repetition priming effects. Since neuropathological changes diffusely affect the brain of AD patients, establishing a clear relationship between localization of cerebral lesions and memory deficits is particularly difficult. Nevertheless, data suggest that extensive involvement of the hippocampal-amygdala complex plays a major role in explicit memory loss. Damage to associative cortical areas likely is involved in repetition priming deficits. The relative integrity of primary motor and sensory cortical areas and of the basal ganglia likely subsume, by contrast, the normal learning of visuomotor skills.