What is the difference between MCI and SCI?

Here we outline how subjective cognitive impairment (SCI) differs from the more advanced mild cognitive impairment (MCI).


What is MCI?

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is the presentation of minor problems with mental abilities, such as thinking clearly or remembering information.

The symptoms are not usually severe enough to significantly impact your day-to-day life, so are not classified as dementia. However, the decline in mental abilities is greater than in normal ageing or in subjective cognitive impairment (SCI).

SCI is the self-reported cognitive decline before the deficits could be detected by cognitive testing, while MCI can be identified by well-established cutoff scores on the standard cognitive screening tests that we routinely use in our practice.

It is important to note that MCI is NOT dementia, but it can increase the risk of developing dementia. For some people MCI is the transition from natural ageing to dementia.

Doctor looking at medical results for MCI, with patient

We are the first memory clinic in the UK that is offering dementia prevention services.

What are the symptoms of MCI?

Possible MCI symptoms are described by the Alzheimer’s Society, as follows:

  • Problems with memory: forgetting recent events, trouble remembering where and when you put things down or repeatedly asking the same question
  • Problems with reasoning, planning or problem-solving 
  • Attention: trouble maintaining focus on something
  • Language: struggling to find the right word
  • Visual depth perception: struggling to interpret an object in three dimensions, judge distances or navigate stairs.
MemoryClinix - Woman looking confused possibly showing symptons of MCI
Doctor looking at medical results for MCI, with patient
Man looking concerned about his memory

Diagnosis and support services

Our team at Psychiatry-UK are able to offer expert assessment, support and advice for people dealing with MCI or SCI.

An online assessment with a psychiatrist will involve a discussion of your symptoms and how they have affected your day-to-day life.

The psychiatrist will perform a mental state examination (MSE) to assess your symptoms objectively including specific tests to gauge your ability to think clearly or to remember things.

Further investigations may also be necessary, such as blood tests (e.g. to check for any vitamin B12 or thyroid deficiencies) and sometimes a brain scan.

An occupational therapy assessment of a patient’s day-to-day activities may also be necessary for the differential diagnosis between MCI and dementia.

Our specialists will then discuss these findings with you.

The diagnosis of MCI is based on:

  • the psychiatric interview
  • the evaluation of your ability to function independently on a daily basis
  • the collateral history provided by your GP and/or your next of kin
  • results from the memory tests
  • result from a head scan.

Support services

There is currently no standard treatment or approved medication for MCI, however we can offer other virtual interventions and support services. These can include a personal care plan which involves the following:

  • Online sessions of memory strategies to improve your wellbeing, delivered by our collaborators at Memory Matters

Dementia prevention through lifestyle based interventions aimed at reducing dementia risk factors.

Man and woman feeling relieved with online help

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Memory problems — help for all

There are many reasons you may be looking for help for your Memory loss and dementia concerns. Find your reason below to get the best help with MemoryClinix.

I’m concerned about a family member

I’m concerned about my own memory

Advice on dementia prevention

I have a family history of dementia

Advice on mild cognitive impairment

Advice on living with dementia

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