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May 6, 2021
It is still controversial to what extent neocortical consolidated memories are susceptible of change by processes of reconsolidation and transformation throughout experience, and whether the medial temporal lobes are necessary for this update of semantic consolidated memories, as they are for episodic remembering. We hypothesize that patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) who have deficits in episodic memory may also have difficulties in updating information on added new features of objects. Sixteen participants with aMCI and 20 healthy control participants performed a semantic word‐to‐picture task, in which they were asked to identify as belonging to a given semantic category NEW objects, that have incorporated novel features, as well as OLD items, semantically and visually SIMILAR items and UNRELATED items. Patients with aMCI made a greater percentage of errors than healthy controls. Participants globally made greater percentages of errors in difficult types of items, namely NEW and SIMILAR, as compared to easier ones, OLD and UNRELATED. Importantly, an item by diagnostic group interaction effect was observed, and post hoc analysis showed that patients with aMCI made a higher percentage of errors than controls in NEW items only. In conclusion, patients with aMCI had a particular difficulty in identifying the NEW items of the word‐to‐picture task as compared to the control participants, supporting the concept of a flexible and dynamic conceptual knowledge system, involving the update of semantic memories and the integration of new attributes in a constant transformation process, which is impaired in these patients.

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Author: Alexandre Mendonça,
Sandra Cardoso,
João Maroco,
Manuela Guerreiro,
Joana C. Carmo