Short-term memory binding is impaired in AD but not in non-AD dementias

Sergio Della Sala, Mario Parra, K. Fabia, S. Luzzi, Sharon Abrahams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Binding is a cognitive function responsible for integrating features within complex stimuli (e.g., shapecolour conjunctions) or events within complex memories (e.g., face-name associations). This function operates both in short-term memory (STM) and in long-term memory (LTM) and is severely affected by Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, forming conjunctions in STM is the only binding function which is not affected by healthy ageing or chronic depression. Whether this specificity holds true across other non-AD dementias is as yet unknown. The present study investigated STM conjunctive binding in a sample of AD patients and patients with other non-AD dementias using a task which has proved sensitive to the effects of AD. The STM task assesses the free recall of objects, colours, and the bindings of objects and colours. Patients with AD, frontotemporal dementia, vascular dementia, lewy body dementia and
dementia associated with Parkinson’s disease showed memory, visuo-spatial, executive and attentional deficits on standard neuropsychological assessment. However, only AD patients showed STM binding deficits. This deficit was observed even when memory for single features was at a similar level across
patient groups. Regression and discriminant analyses confirmed that the STM binding task accounted for the largest proportion of variance between AD and non-AD groups and held the greatest classification power to identify patients with AD. STM conjunctive binding places little demands on executive functions
and appears to be subserved by components of the memory network which are targeted by AD, but not by non-AD dementias.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)833-840
Issue number5
Early online date24 Jan 2012
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012


  • sporadic Alzheimer's disease
  • non-Alzheimer's dementias
  • differential diagnosis
  • short-term memory binding
  • working memory


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