Assessing Risk, Crafting Solutions

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) causes a slight - but noticeable - decline in your mental abilities and memory. With MCI, changes to your behavior and memory are apparent to you, your family and friends, but they are not severe enough to interfere with your regular routine.

With MCI you may have difficulty grasping new information or learning new skills as quickly as you used to. You may forget conversations or appointments you’ve scheduled. Your mental processing slows some. However, because its symptoms do not disrupt your life or restrict your ability to function independently, MCI is not considered a form of dementia.

Although MCI may be caused by a treatable underlying medical condition, it more commonly indicates the very early stages of dementia. The neurology experts at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center have the expertise and training you can rely on to accurately diagnose and treat MCI to slow its progression and minimize the impact the condition has on your life.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Mild Cognitive Impairment Symptoms

The symptoms of MCI are categorized based on the thinking skills they represent. You may exhibit warning signs from one or both categories, depending on the specifics and severity of your condition.

  • Memory (Amnestic MCI): you forget information like names, appointments or conversations that you previously would have recalled easily.
  • Thinking skills (Nonamnestic MCI): your ability to process and learn information, communicate and plan is reduced.

An occasional memory lapse is rarely a cause for alarm, but mental decline that worsens over time and becomes increasingly more noticeable may indicate the early stages of a serious health condition.

Behavior that may be a sign of MCI includes:

  • Increasing forgetfulness in general
  • Forgetting important events, social engagements or appointments
  • Inability to maintain a train of thought or follow a conversation
  • Difficulty making decisions, following instructions or completing tasks with multiple steps
  • Impaired sense of direction
  • Impulsive behavior or repeatedly showing poor judgment

Diagnosing Mild Cognitive Impairment

The neurology specialists at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center carefully review your medical history and perform an extensive physical exam for a complete overview of your neurological health.

Additional testing may include:

  • Bloodwork and brain MRI: rules out reversible causes of cognitive impairment and provides a detailed look at your brain’s structure.
  • Neuropsychological testing: helps identify and assess whether mental decline exists and, if so, the amount of potential damage. Sets a baseline for comparison in future evaluations.
  • Sleep study: tests for obstructive sleep apnea or REM sleep behavior disorder if your symptoms suggest sleep issues play a part in your memory difficulties.


It is impossible to predict the impact a diagnosis of MCI will have on your health. The majority of people go on to develop clinical dementia, but that diagnosis is not a foregone conclusion. Lifestyle modifications and ongoing neurological care and regular monitoring by a cognitive neurologist may help slow the condition’s progression and lessen its impact on your life.

No medications are currently approved to treat MCI. However, you may be prescribed certain drugs to help alleviate some of its symptoms, like depression or insomnia, if they become severe.

At Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, we monitor your condition carefully and address any changes in your mental ability. Treatment focuses on lifestyle and environment modifications designed to minimize the disruption to your life as long as possible.

Options include:

  • Treatment for reversible medical causes of MCI
  • Management of depression and other psychiatric issues often associated with MCI
  • Management of sleep disorder, as needed
  • Evaluation of current medication regimen to eliminate any prescription drugs or dietary supplements that interfere with memory and thought processes
  • Regular clinical monitoring with repeat testing one year after diagnosis

Experts in Care

Meet our doctors, view their profiles and select the one that’s right for you.

Find a doctor near you

Support Groups

Support groups provide an opportunity to share your feelings and connect with other patients and caregivers who are experiencing similar struggles.

Learn more about support groups offered

Convenient Locations

Find the care your family needs, close to home, at one of our many locations throughout central Pennsylvania.

Find a location near you