Visual associations to retrieve episodic memory across healthy elderly, mild cognitive impairment, and patients with Alzheimer's disease

Sascha R. A. Meyer*, Jos F. M. De Jonghe, Ben Schmand, Rudolf W. H. M. Ponds

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Web of Science)


Episodic memory tests need to determine the degree to which patients with moderate to severe memory deficits can still benefit from retrieval support. Especially in the case of Alzheimer's disease (AD), this may support health care to be more closely aligned with patients' memory capacities. We investigated whether the different measures of episodic memory of the Visual Association Test-Extended (VAT-E) can provide a more detailed and informative assessment on memory disturbances across a broad range of cognitive decline, from normal to severe impairment as seen in AD, by examining differences in floor effects. The VAT-E consists of 24 pairs of black-and-white line drawings. In a within-group design, we compared score distributions of VAT-E subtests in healthy elderly controls, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and AD (n = 144), as well as in relation to global cognitive impairment. Paired associate recall showed a floor effect in 41% of MCI patients and 62% of AD patients. Free recall showed a floor effect in 73% of MCI patients and 84% of AD patients. Multiple-choice cued recognition did not show a floor effect in either of the patient groups. We conclude that the VAT-E covers a broad range of episodic memory decline in patients. As expected, paired associate recall was of intermediate difficulty, free recall was most difficult, and multiple-choice cued recognition was least difficult for patients. These varying levels of difficulty enable a more accurate determination of the level of retrieval support that can still benefit patients across a broad range of cognitive decline.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-462
Number of pages16
JournalAging Neuropsychology and Cognition
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2019


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • mild cognitive impairment
  • dementia
  • learning and memory
  • assessment

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