Background: Over the past decade, visual short-term memory (VSTM) binding tests have been shown to be one of the most sensitive behavioral indicators of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), especially when they require the binding of multiple features (e.g., color and shape). Recently, it has become possible to directly measure amyloid and tau levels in vivo via positron emission tomography (PET). To this point, these behavioral and neurochemical markers have not been compared in humans with AD or at risk for it. Methods: In a cross-sectional study, we compared VSTM performance to tau and amyloid concentrations, measured by PET, in individuals certain to develop AD by virtue of their inheritance of the presenilin-1 E280A mutation. These included 21 clinically unimpaired subjects and 7 subjects with early mild cognitive impairment (MCI), as well as 30 family members who were not carriers of the mutation. Results: We found that VSTM performance correlated strongly with tau in entorhinal cortex and inferior temporal lobe, and also with amyloid when examining asymptomatic carriers only. The condition requiring binding was not preferentially linked to tau—in fact, the non-binding “shape only” condition showed a stronger relationship. Conclusions: The results confirm VSTM’s status as an early marker of AD pathology, and raise interesting questions as to the course of binding-specific versus non-binding aspects of VSTM in early AD.
- associative memory
- autosomal dominant Alzheimer's disease