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December 1975

Memory Complaint and Impairment in the AgedThe Effect of Depression and Altered Brain Function

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, University of Chicago (Dr Kahn, Ms Hilbert, and Mr Niederehe) and the Gerontology Center, University of Southern California, Los Angeles (Dr Zarit).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1975;32(12):1569-1573. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1975.01760300107009

To clarify the role of memory impairment in the aged as a normal or psychopathological phenomenon, 153 persons 50-years-old and over with varying degrees of depression and altered brain function were compared for their complaints about memory and actual performance on a series of memory tests. It was found that while performance varied with altered brain function, complaint was related to level of depression, regardless of performance. Exaggerated memory complaint was considered one manifestation of a general pattern of discrepant reporting of symptoms by depressed persons, and apparently related to an underlying personality factor. The complaint of superiority of remote over recent memory was not substantiated empirically, but was considered part of the pattern of stereotyped language and attitudes characteristic of depressed persons.