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R C Peterson, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, £39.50, pp 258. ISBN 0-19-512342-5
It is hard to avoid the cliché “timely” to describe this book. The past few years have seen very considerable upsurge of interest in the very early pre-dementia stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The editor of the present book, Ronald Peterson, has been at the forefront of this initiative and his term, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), to describe this early prodromic stage, has been adopted around the world. It is highly appropriate, therefore, that he should edit a book on mild cognitive impairment bringing together major contributors. The book is conventional in form, containing chapters on clinical features, neuropsychiatric symptoms, neuropsychology, and structural and functional brain imaging, as well as pathology, biological markers, and treatment options. All of the chapters are very well written with admirably up to date referencing. The book will be of considerable interest to behavioural neurologists, neuropsychologists, and brain imagers.
I have only one or two quibbles with this otherwise excellent book, all of which reflect my own biases. There is an inherent view that MCI represents a clinically homogeneous syndrome, yet the current clinical definition is sufficiently wide to encompass the early stages of many forms of degenerative or even vascular brain disease. Consideration of the features that might separate those with early Alzheimer’s disease from those with early frontotemporal dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, or vascular dementia is largely lacking. The neuropsychological sections were somewhat disappointing in that they neglect important work from the London group on the earliest cognitive markers for Alzheimer’s disease in subjects with known gene mutations. There is also important work from Melbourne on the value of computerised tests of visual paired associate learning that is not mentioned. The book in general is rather biased towards North America, with only two of the chapters containing contributions from European workers. These are, however, minor quibbles. All multi-authored books suffer from a variable quality. Overall this is an excellent and important contribution that will be a standard reference for some time to come. It is also extremely reasonably priced.
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