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BioMed Research International
Volume 2015, Article ID 748212, 9 pages
Review Article

Working Memory and Executive Function Decline across Normal Aging, Mild Cognitive Impairment, and Alzheimer’s Disease

1Department of Psychology, Skidmore College, 815 North Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866, USA
2Neuroscience Program, Skidmore College, 815 North Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866, USA

Received 17 April 2015; Accepted 27 September 2015

Academic Editor: Slavica Krantic

Copyright © 2015 Anna-Mariya Kirova et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease marked by deficits in episodic memory, working memory (WM), and executive function. Examples of executive dysfunction in AD include poor selective and divided attention, failed inhibition of interfering stimuli, and poor manipulation skills. Although episodic deficits during disease progression have been widely studied and are the benchmark of a probable AD diagnosis, more recent research has investigated WM and executive function decline during mild cognitive impairment (MCI), also referred to as the preclinical stage of AD. MCI is a critical period during which cognitive restructuring and neuroplasticity such as compensation still occur; therefore, cognitive therapies could have a beneficial effect on decreasing the likelihood of AD progression during MCI. Monitoring performance on working memory and executive function tasks to track cognitive function may signal progression from normal cognition to MCI to AD. The present review tracks WM decline through normal aging, MCI, and AD to highlight the behavioral and neurological differences that distinguish these three stages in an effort to guide future research on MCI diagnosis, cognitive therapy, and AD prevention.