Objective: We investigated how well a visual associative learning task discriminates Alzheimer's disease (AD) dementia from other types of dementia and how it relates to AD pathology. Methods: 3,599 patients (63.9 ± 8.9 years old, 41% female) from the Amsterdam Dementia Cohort completed two sets of the Visual Association Test (VAT) in a single test session and underwent magnetic resonance imaging. We performed receiver operating curve analysis to investigate the VAT's discriminatory ability between AD dementia and other diagnoses and compared it to that of other episodic memory tests. We tested associations between VAT performance and medial temporal lobe atrophy (MTA), and amyloid status (n = 2,769, 77%). Results: Patients with AD dementia performed worse on the VAT than all other patients. The VAT discriminated well between AD and other types of dementia (area under the curve range 0.70-0.86), better than other episodic memory tests. Six-hundred forty patients (17.8%) learned all associations on VAT-A, but not on VAT-B, and they were more likely to have higher MTA scores (odds ratios range 1.63 (MTA 0.5) through 5.13 for MTA ≥ 3, all p <.001) and to be amyloid positive (odds ratio = 3.38, 95%CI = [2.71, 4.22], p <.001) than patients who learned all associations on both sets. Conclusions: Performance on the VAT, especially on a second set administered immediately after the first, discriminates AD from other types of dementia and is associated with MTA and amyloid positivity. The VAT might be a useful, simple tool to assess early episodic memory deficits in the presence of AD pathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Early online date23 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Feb 2024


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • cognition
  • dementia
  • differential diagnosis
  • episodic memory
  • learning
  • neuropsychological tests

Cite this