Diagnostic Accuracy of Memory Measures in Alzheimer’s Dementia and Mild Cognitive Impairment: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Gali H. Weissberger, Jessica V. Strong, Kayla B. Stefanidis, Mathew J. Summers, Mark W. Bondi, Nikki H. Stricker

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


With an increasing focus on biomarkers in dementia research, illustrating the role of neuropsychological assessment in detecting mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s dementia (AD) is important. This systematic review and meta-analysis, conducted in accordance with PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses) standards, summarizes the sensitivity and specificity of memory measures in individuals with MCI and AD. Both meta-analytic and qualitative examination of AD versus healthy control (HC) studies (n = 47) revealed generally high sensitivity and specificity (≥ 80% for AD comparisons) for measures of immediate (sensitivity = 87%, specificity = 88%) and delayed memory (sensitivity = 89%, specificity = 89%), especially those involving word-list recall. Examination of MCI versus HC studies (n = 38) revealed generally lower diagnostic accuracy for both immediate (sensitivity = 72%, specificity = 81%) and delayed memory (sensitivity = 75%, specificity = 81%). Measures that differentiated AD from other conditions (n = 10 studies) yielded mixed results, with generally high sensitivity in the context of low or variable specificity. Results confirm that memory measures have high diagnostic accuracy for identification of AD, are promising but require further refinement for identification of MCI, and provide support for ongoing investigation of neuropsychological assessment as a cognitive biomarker of preclinical AD. Emphasizing diagnostic test accuracy statistics over null hypothesis testing in future studies will promote the ongoing use of neuropsychological tests as Alzheimer’s disease research and clinical criteria increasingly rely upon cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and neuroimaging biomarkers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)354-388
Number of pages35
JournalNeuropsychology Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Memory
  • Meta-analysis
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Neuropsychological testing
  • Sensitivity and specificity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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