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Mild Cognitive Impairment



Mild cognitive impairment–amnestic type (MCI-AT) is mild, repeated memory loss. It lies between the normal memory loss of aging and the more serious conditions of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. MCI-AT only involves problems with memory.

People with MCI-AT who are over age 65 have a higher chance of developing dementia and Alzheimer's. However, many people with MCI-AT never develop these disorders. Some even return to normal.

Areas of the Brain

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Causes    TOP

The causes are not clear. However, genetic factors may be a cause.


Risk Factors    TOP

Factors that may increase your chance of developing MCI-AT include:

Research also suggests that these may be risk factors for MCI-AT:

  • Smoking
  • Lack of social contact
  • Low educational level
  • Excessive response to stress
  • Poor nutrition and lack of vitamins
  • Exposure to toxins

Symptoms    TOP

The main symptom is frequent, ongoing memory loss beyond what is normally expected for your age. That means having more than small lapses of memory. If you have MCI-AT, you may:

  • Remember much less of what you have just read or seen than people who have only the normal memory changes of aging
  • Take longer to recall information

Diagnosis    TOP

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may also talk with family members and caregivers. Tests may include:

  • Memory and cognitive skill tests
  • Blood tests
  • Lumbar puncture—to test the protective fluid around the brain and spinal cord for possible causes

Imaging tests take pictures of internal bodily structures. This can be done with:


Treatment    TOP

Treatment is focused on:

  • Preventing, or at least slowing down, further loss of memory and other cognitive abilities using
    • Cognitive intervention
    • Occupational therapy
  • Preventing dementia and Alzheimer's disease


Researchers are currently studying the effects that several medications may have on slowing cognitive decline. These include:

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors
  • Mood stabilizers

Prevention    TOP

To help reduce your chance of developing MCI-AT, take these steps:

  • Manage medical conditions, especially high blood pressure
  • Manage psychiatric conditions, such as depression
  • Stay mentally active by doing things like memory exercises, crossword puzzles, reading, and taking classes
  • Get regular exercise
  • Participate in social activities
  • Reduce stress
  • Eat a healthful diet

American Psychiatric Association

National Institute on Aging


The Alzheimer Society of Canada

Seniors Canada


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Gauthier S, Reisberg B, et al. Mild cognitive impairment. Lancet. 2006;367(9518):1262-1270.

Institute for the Study of Aging and International Longevity Center–USA (March 2001). Achieving and Maintaining Cognitive Vitality With Aging: A Workshop Report. New York, NY.

Mild cognitive impairment. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated August 23, 2013. Accessed September 5, 2013.

National Institute on Aging. 2011-2012 Alzheimer's Disease Progress Report. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed September 5, 2013.

Petersen RC. Mild cognitive impairment: Current research and clinical implications. Semin Neurol. 2007;27(1):22-31.

Petersen RC, Roberts RO, et al. Mild cognitive impairment: Ten years later. Arch Neurol. 2009;66(12):1447-1455.

Petersen RC, Smith GE, et al. Mild cognitive impairment: clinical characterization and outcome. Archives of Neurology. 1999;56(3):303-308.

Last reviewed August 2015 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2013

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