Are Alzheimer's disease patients able to learn visual prototypes?
Recently, controversial results emerged regarding visual prototype learning in Alzheimer's disease (AD). The aim of this study was to elucidate this issue in a larger population of AD patients. The AD patients (N=72) and age-matched healthy control subjects (N=25) learned to recognize and to categorize visual dot patterns. In comparison with the control subjects, the AD patients as a group showed dysfunctions in the recognition task, whereas categorization was relatively spared in their case. Recognition was impaired in patients with mild AD (Mini-Mental score: 18-23) and moderate AD (Mini-Mental score<18), whereas categorization was impaired only in patients with moderate AD. These results suggest that while the medio-temporal/diencephalic explicit memory system is markedly affected even in early AD, the sensory neocortical areas mediating implicit category learning display a sufficient degree of functional capacity until later stages of the disease.