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Mild cognitive impairment


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Patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) experience a decline in memory but not in other cognitive abilities. There is no significant impact on daily life. It often goes unnoticed by the individual experiencing it, but a person with MCI remains at a greater risk of progressing on to dementia.


MIC is diagnosed through a thorough of examination from one of our Memory Disorder specialists.

Some criteria they look for:

  • Definite impairments in more than one of these areas:
    • Memory
    • Executive functioning
    • Attention
  • Subjective awareness of impairment
  • Less efficient and more error prone when performing common activities (e.g., bill paying).

It is important to take note that there are a number of reasons that a person might present with cognitive impairments including:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • medical conditions
  • medication interactions
  • neurological conditions

Depending on the cause, so impairment may be reversible.


Although research is active, to date, there are no FDA-approved treatments for MCI.

For this reason, there is a great interest in non-pharmacological approaches to stave off worsening cognitive disability. One such approach is cognitive training, which researchers believe may allow the brain to reorganize its pathways to adjust to new situations and compensate for injury or disease.

Does cognitive training work?
In recent years, there has been an explosion of clinical trials investigating the merits of cognitive training. Various forms of cognitive training have been reported to have positive effects on executive functions, attention, memory, information processing speed and visual spatial abilities.

A recent study concluded that cognitive training leads to clinically meaningful improvements in overall cognition, as well as working memory, processing speed and executive functions.

Does exercise improve cognition?
Some studies do show that incorporating elements of exercise may provide added benefit than do programs that are purely cognitive in nature. Indeed, one study demonstrated that patients who received a multifaceted program comprising cognitive, transfer and motor elements improved over those receiving cognitive training alone or cognitive plus transfer training only.

Take-Away for Patients
Patients should engage in activities that challenge their brain to learn new things, think creatively, solve problems and achieve goals. Activities such as exercising, reading, using the computer, solving puzzles, playing games, engaging in social interactions and even performing household chores may promote cognitive preservation. To stay sharp, patients should stay active socially, physically and mentally

Why Choose UHealth?

How do the research programs at UM work? UM Neurology has an ever-growing memory research program. UM researchers collaborate with each other as well as scientists throughout the country. We are proud of our researchers, their dedication, and their significant accomplishments.

What are researchers studying? UM researchers are studying many issues related to memory loss, including the causes and the treatments of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

What are your research goals? We want to understand why people develop problems with their memory as they age. We also want to understand the factors that make someone susceptible to dementia.

What types of research programs are underway? There are many. In one program, UM researchers are studying the genetics of memory diseases to find out whether someone is born with these diseases that will become apparent in later years. Gene therapy may one day allow these genetically susceptible people a treatment to prevent memory loss and dementia.

What else are you researching? We are studying whether the accumulation of amyloid protein in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients can be interrupted and whether this prevents the disease from worsening. UM researchers are also studying the effects of diet and nutrition on brain health and memory.

What about using stem cells for memory loss? Stem cells are one of the most exciting areas of research today. We all have stem cells in many areas of our bodies including our brain. Scientists are looking to find ways to mobilize our own stem cells and enhance their ability to repair or restore damaged areas of the brain.

Aren’t stem cells difficult to obtain? No. Science has advanced so that we can now take stem cells from the skin, bone marrow, fatty tissues or other parts of the body. Fetal stem cells are no longer necessary.

How do stem cells work? Stem cells have the potential to repair or replace damaged brain tissue and thereby restore functions of the brain including memory.

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