Towards diagnostic conversational profiles of patients presenting with dementia or functional memory disorders to memory clinics

Christopher Elsey, Paul Drew, Danielle Jones, Daniel Blackburn, Sarah Wakefield, Kirsty Harkness, Annalena Venneri, Markus Reuber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: This study explores whether the profile of patients' interactional behaviour in memory clinic conversations with a doctor can contribute to the clinical differentiation between functional memory disorders (FMD) and memory problems related to neurodegenerative diseases. Methods: Conversation Analysis of video recordings of neurologists' interactions with patients attending a specialist memory clinic. "Gold standard" diagnoses were made independently of CA findings by a multi-disciplinary team based on clinical assessment, neuropsychological testing and brain imaging. Results: Two discrete conversational profiles for patients with memory complaints emerged, including (i) who attends the clinic (i.e., whether or not patients are accompanied), and (ii) patients' responses to neurologists' questions about memory problems, such as difficulties with compound questions and providing specific and elaborated examples and frequent "I don't know" responses. Conclusion: Specific communicative difficulties are characteristic of the interaction patterns of patients with a neurodegenerative pathology. Those difficulties are manifest in memory clinic interactions with neurologists, thereby helping to differentiate patients with dementia from those with FMD. Practical implications: Our findings demonstrate that conversational profiles based on patients' contributions to memory clinic encounters have diagnostic potential to assist the screening and referral process from primary care, and the diagnostic service in secondary care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1071-1077
Number of pages7
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 1 2015


  • Communication
  • Conversation analysis
  • Dementia
  • Differential diagnosis
  • Functional memory disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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