Differential focal and nonfocal prospective memory accuracy in a demographically diverse group of nondemented community-dwelling older adults

Susan Y. Chi, Laura A. Rabin, Avner Aronov, Joshua Fogel, Ashu Kapoor, Cuiling Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Although prospective memory (PM) is compromised in mild cognitive impairment (MCI), it is unclear which specific cognitive processes underlie these PM difficulties. We investigated older adults' performance on a computerized event-based focal versus nonfocal PM task that made varying demands on the amount of attentional control required to support intention retrieval. Participants were nondemented individuals (mean age=81.8 years; female=66.1%) enrolled in a community-based longitudinal study, including those with amnestic MCI (aMCI), nonamnestic MCI (naMCI), subjective cognitive decline (SCD), and healthy controls (HC). Participants included in the primary analysis (n=189) completed the PM task and recalled and/or recognized both focal and nonfocal PM cues presented in the task. Participants and their informants also completed a questionnaire assessing everyday PM failures. Relative to HC, those with aMCI and naMCI were significantly impaired in focal PM accuracy (p<.05). In a follow-up analysis that included 13 additional participants who successfully recalled and/or recognized at least one of the two PM cues, the naMCI group showed deficits in nonfocal PM accuracy (p<.05). There was a significant negative correlation between informant reports of PM difficulties and nonfocal PM accuracy (p<.01). PM failures in aMCI may be primarily related to impairment of spontaneous retrieval processes associated with the medial temporal lobe system, while PM failures in naMCI potentially indicate additional deficits in executive control functions and prefrontal systems. The observed focal versus nonfocal PM performance profiles in aMCI and naMCI may constitute specific behavioral markers of PM decline that result from compromise of separate neurocognitive systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1015-1027
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
StatePublished - Nov 20 2014


  • Aging
  • Cues
  • Executive functions
  • Memory
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Prospective
  • Subjective cognitive decline

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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