Deficits in visual short-term memory (VSTM) binding have been proposed as an early and specific marker for Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, no studies have explored the neural correlates of this domain in clinical categories involving prodromal stages with different risk levels of conversion to AD. We assessed underlying electrophysiological modulations in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), patients in the MCI stages of familial AD carrying the mutation E280A of the presenilin-1 gene (MCI-FAD), and healthy controls. Moreover, we compared the behavioral performance and neural correlates of both patient groups. Participants completed a change-detection VSTM task assessing recognition of changes between shapes or shape-color bindings, presented in two consecutive arrays (i.e., study and test) while event related potentials (ERPs) were recorded. Changes always occurred in the test array and consisted of new features replacing studied features (shape-only) or features swapping across items (shape-color binding). Both MCI and MCI-FAD patients performed worse than controls in the shape-color binding condition. Early electrophysiological activity (100-250 ms) was significantly reduced in both clinical groups, particularly over fronto-central and parieto-occipital regions. However, shape-color binding performance and their reduced neural correlates were similar between MCI and MCI-FAD. Our results support the validity of the VSTM binding test and their neural correlates in the early detection of AD and highlight the importance of studies comparing samples at different risk for AD conversion. The combined analysis of behavioral and ERP data gleaned with the VSTM binding task can offer a valuable memory biomarker for AD.
- Alzheimer Disease/genetics
- cognitive dysfunction/genetics
- Evoked Potentials
- memory disorders/genetics
- neuropsychological tests
- pattern recognition, visual/physiology
- prodromal symptoms