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Gist Distinctions in Healthy Cognitive Aging Versus Mild Alzheimer’s Disease

An elderly couple is sitting on a bench while holding each other in the park. Older. IStock#: 1151872303.

Brain Impairment

Sandra Chapman, Raksha Anand, Garen Sparks and Munro Cullum

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Gist-based memory refers to the global or holistic processing of information rather than of the specific details. In Alzheimer's and other age-related neuropathologies, memory for details is often the most common and earliest impairments. There has always been a challenge in distinguishing normal age-related cognitive changes and the presence of disease, so identifying brain processes that are more stable throughout the lifetime and less afflicted by diseases such as Alzheimer's would be beneficial. This study compared the gist processing in cognitively healthy young and old seniors as well as seniors with mild stages of Alzheimer's disease. It was found that gist processing was impaired in the Alzheimer's participants but was normal for both the young and old healthy seniors. This displays the important distinction between gist and detail memory and the clinical implications it could play in the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.

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Related Information

Alzheimer’s Discovery Program

Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia can be overwhelming. Reframe the diagnosis as an opportunity to form an action-oriented plan for the future. Take a strength-based approach that enriches the lives of families adjusting to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD

Chief Director Dee Wyly Distinguished Professor, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences Co-Leader, The BrainHealth Project