Mild Cognitive Impairment
En Español (Spanish Version)

Mild cognitive impairment–amnestic type (MCI-AT) is mild, repeated memory loss. It lies between the normal memory loss of aging and the more serious conditions of dementia and Alzheimer's disease . MCI-AT only involves problems with memory.

People with MCI-AT who are over age 65 have a higher chance of developing dementia and Alzheimer's. However, many people with MCI-AT never develop these disorders. Some even return to normal.

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The causes are not clear. However, genetic factors may be a cause.

Risk Factors
MCI-AT is more common in people who 65 years and older. Other factors that may increase your chance of developing MCI-AT include:

Research also suggests that these may be risk factors for MCI-AT:

  • Smoking
  • Lack of social contact
  • Low educational level
  • Excessive response to stress
  • Poor nutrition and lack of vitamins
  • Exposure to toxins
The main symptom is frequent, ongoing memory loss beyond what is normally expected for your age. That means having more than small lapses of memory. If you have MCI-AT, you may:

  • Remember much less of what you have just read or seen than people who have only the normal memory changes of aging
  • Take longer to recall information
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may also talk with family members and caregivers. Tests may include:

  • Memory and cognitive skill tests
  • Blood tests
  • Lumbar puncture —to test the fluid around the brain and spinal cord for possible causes
Imaging tests take pictures of internal bodily structures. This can be done with:

Treatment is focused on:

  • Preventing, or at least slowing down, further loss of memory and other cognitive abilities using
    • Cognitive intervention
    • Occupational therapy
  • Preventing dementia and Alzheimer's disease
Researchers are currently studying the effects that several medications may have on slowing cognitive decline. These include:

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors
  • Mood stabilizers
To help reduce your chance of developing MCI-AT, take these steps:

  • Manage medical conditions, especially high blood pressure
  • Manage psychiatric conditions, such as depression
  • Stay mentally active by doing things like memory exercises, crossword puzzles, reading, and taking classes
  • Get regular exercise
  • Participate in social activities
  • Reduce stress
  • Eat a healthful diet

National Institute on Aging

Psych—American Psychiatric Association

The Alzheimer Society of Canada

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Feldman HH, Jacova C. Mild cognitive impairment. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2005;13:645-655.

Gauthier S, Reisberg B, Zaudig M, et al. Mild cognitive impairment. Lancet. 2006;367:1262-1270.

Institute for the Study of Aging and International Longevity Center–USA (March 2001). Achieving and Maintaining Cognitive Vitality With Aging: A Workshop Report. New York, NY.

Mild cognitive impairment. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated August 23, 2013. Accessed September 5, 2013.

National Institute on Aging. 2011-2012 Alzheimer's Disease Progress Report. Available at: Accessed September 5, 2013.

Petersen RC. Mild cognitive impairment: current research and clinical implications. Semin Neurol. 2007;27.

Petersen RC, Roberts RO, Knopmann DS, et al. Mild cognitive impairment: ten years later. Arch Neurol. 2009;66(12):1447-1455.

Petersen RC, Smith GE, Waring SC, Ivnik RJ, Tangalos EG, Kokmen E. Mild cognitive impairment: clinical characterization and outcome. Archives of Neurology. 1999;56:303-308.

Last Reviewed August 2014

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