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Detection of prospective memory deficits in mild cognitive impairment of suspected Alzheimer's disease etiology using a novel event-based prospective memory task.We investigated the relative discriminatory efficacy of an event-based prospective memory (PM) task, in which specificity of the instructions and perceptual salience of the PM cue were manipulated, compared with two widely used retrospective memory (RM) tests (Rivermead Paragraph Recall Test and CERAD-Word List Test), when detecting mild cognitive impairment of suspected Alzheimer's disease etiology (MCI-AD) (N = 19) from normal controls (NC) (N = 21). Statistical analyses showed high discriminatory capacity of the PM task for detecting MCI-AD. The Non-Specific-Non-Salient condition proved particularly useful in detecting MCI-AD, possibly reflecting the difficulty of the task, requiring more strategic attentional resources to monitor for the PM cue. With a cutoff score of <4/10, the Non-Specific-Non-Salient condition achieved a sensitivity = 84%, and a specificity = 95%, superior to the most discriminative RM test used (CERAD-Total Learning: sensitivity = 83%; specificity = 76%). Results suggest that PM is an early sign of memory failure in MCI-AD and may be a more pronounced deficit than retrospective failure, probably reflecting the greater self-initiated retrieval demands involved in the PM task used. Limitations include the relatively small sample size, and the use of a convenience sample (i.e. memory clinic attenders and healthy active volunteers), reducing the generalizability of the results, which should be regarded as preliminary. (JINS, 2009, 15, 154-159.).