J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 73:377-384 doi:10.1136/jnnp.73.4.377
  • Paper

Abnormal verbal event related potentials in mild cognitive impairment and incipient Alzheimer's disease

  1. J M Olichney,
  2. S K Morris,
  3. C Ochoa,
  4. D P Salmon,
  5. L J Thal,
  6. M Kutas,
  7. V J Iragui
  1. Departments of Neurosciences and Cognitive Science, University of California, San Diego, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr J M Olichney, Neurology Service (9127), VA San Diego Healthcare System, 3350 La Jolla Village Drive, San Diego, CA 92161, USA;
  • Received 15 January 2002
  • Accepted 14 June 2002
  • Revised 5 June 2002


Background: It has been reported that patients with amnesia have a reduced effect of word repetition upon the late positive component of the event related potential (ERP), which peaks at around 600 ms after word onset.

Objective: To study a word repetition ERP paradigm in subjects with mild cognitive impairment.

Subjects: 14 patients with mild cognitive impairment (mean mini-mental state examination score = 27); 14 normal elderly controls.

Methods: Auditory category statements were each followed by a single visual target word (50% “congruous” category exemplars, 50% “incongruous”) while ERPs were recorded. N400 (an ERP component elicited by semantically “incongruous” words) and LPC amplitude data were submitted to analysis of variance.

Results: The latency of the N400 was slower in mild cognitive impairment. In normal controls, the ERPs to “congruous” targets showed a late positive component to new words, which was greatly diminished with repetition. This repetition effect in normal subjects started before 300 ms at right frontal sites, and peaked at ∼600 ms post-stimulus over posterior sites. In contrast, the group with mild cognitive impairment had a reduced repetition effect (p < 0.02), which started around 500 ms, with a more central distribution. Further comparisons within the cognitive impairment group showed no appreciable congruous word repetition effect among seven individuals who subsequently converted to probable Alzheimer's disease. The congruous word repetition effect in the group with mild cognitive impairment was almost entirely accounted for by the non-converters. The amplitude of the congruous late positive component word repetition effect was significantly correlated (0.38 ≤ r ≤ 0.73) with several verbal memory measures.

Conclusions: The congruous word repetition ERP effect appears sensitive to the memory impairment in mild cognitive impairment and could have value in predicting incipient Alzheimer's disease.


  • Competing interests: none declared.

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