, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 426-437

Memory deficits in Alzheimer's disease: The encoding hypothesis and cholinergic function

Abstract

Forgetting functions generated by delayed matching-to-sample procedures allow delay-dependent effects to be distinguished from delay-independent effects on working memory. Parameters of negative exponential functions estimate initial discriminability (intercept) and rate of forgetting (slope). Forgetting functions for patients with Alzheimer's disease indicate that they differ from normal controls in terms of reduced initial discriminability—that is, in the encoding component of memory performance— but not convincingly in rate of forgetting. Reanalyses of previous studies with different species suggest that pro- and anticholinergic drugs influence initial discriminability in delayed matching-to-sample performance, but not rate of forgetting. The results of our reanalyses are consistent with the conclusion that the cholinergic system plays a role in the encoding component of working memory and that this is the main characteristic of the memory deficit shown by patients with Alzheimer's disease.