The role of attention in a spatial memory task in Alzheimer disease patients

Document Type


Publication Date



Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.


Memory and attention are interrelated cognitive processes that most likely influence the functioning of each other, yet they are often difficult to distinguish in psychological experiments. Young, aged adults, and patients with Alzheimer disease (AD) were tested on a delay response task measuring spatial memory that also placed high demands on attentional resources. Aged adults performed as well as young, suggesting that neither attentional nor memory abilities were exceeded in either group. However, AD subjects were severely impaired on this task. Two further experiments with AD patients examined the relative contribution of attentional and memory deficits in the performance of this population. Both memory and attentional impairments were found; however, errors due to memory factors were more closely related to severity of disease as measured on the Folstein Mini-Mental State Examination than were errors of attentional origin. These studies demonstrate the necessity of accounting for attentional components in studies examining memory, especially in patients with AD.