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MCI stands for Mild Cognitive Impairment, a category with which medical professionals refer to the state between the normal type of cognitive decline, that happens to everyone with old age, and very early dementia.

The original criteria an individual needed to satisfy to be diagnosed with MCI were the following:

  • Memory complaint, preferably qualified by an informant.
  • Memory impairment for age.
  • Preserved general cognitive function.
  • Intact activities of daily living.
  • Not presenting dementia.

At a close inspection, it appears clear how all the criteria listed above have to do with memory impairment. But we know that not all cognitive decline refers to memory. This is why, most scientists today talk about two types of MCI:

  • Amnestic: which includes memory impairment.
  • Non-amnestic: in which the decline is initially limited to non-memory cognitive domains.

Although a minority of MCI sufferers can improve to a normal state after some time, it is much more common for them to progress to fully developed dementia. It is thought that this happens to 10%-12% of those living with MCI each year.

Currently there are no medical treatments approved for MCI specifically. Some lifestyle changes, however, may help slow down the progression and manage symptoms better. These changes include:

  • Psychosocial interventions. This means, participating in cognitively stimulating activities, such as reading a book, playing a game of chess, writing crosswords, or listening to a radio program. Likewise, doing physical activity regularly 3-4 times per week is also recommended.
  • Nutritional interventions. This means taking care of one’s diet, and being careful of one’s intake of dietary fat, while favouring food rich in antioxidants, such as vitamin E and C.

The concept of MCI is not only useful clinically, to allow for closer monitoring of diagnosed individuals, but also research-wise, as it impacted every aspect of research on ageing and dementia, including clinical aspects, neuropsychology, epidemiology, neuroimaging, neuropathology, mechanisms of disease, and clinical trials.


source: Peters, R. C., Selamawit N. (2008), Mild Cognitive Impairment: An Overview, CNS Spectrums, 13(1), pp. 45-53.