Neuropsychology Review

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 71–90

Pseudodementia: A slow death

  • Paul David Nussbaum

DOI: 10.1007/BF01874829

Cite this article as:
Nussbaum, P.D. Neuropsychol Rev (1994) 4: 71. doi:10.1007/BF01874829


The clinical term “pseudodementia” has remained a permanent nosological entity in the literature for over 100 years. Indeed, recognition of the fact that clinical symptoms associated with reversible neuropsychiatric conditions can mimic irreversible disorders was known as early as the middle of the 19th century. The importance of the term lies in the inherent assumption that the presenting dementia is not real, or is at least reversible, and therefore treatable. Nonetheless, there continues to be controversy regarding the validity and appropriate clinical use of the term. This article reviews the evolution and clinical utility of the term pseudodementia and attempts to redirect investigative efforts toward an understanding of the neuroanatomical substrates that underlie depression and cognitive impairment in the elderly. Based on a critical analysis of the relevant literatures, a subcortical-frontal neuroanatomical substrate of late-life depression is supported. Further, the presence of leukoaraiosis, as measured by magnetic resonance imaging, is proposed as a potential neurobiological marker that contributes to the depressed mood, cognitive impairment, and later cognitive deterioration of some elderly depressed.

Key Words

pseudodementia cognitive impairment depression Alzheimer's disease leukoaraiosis 

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul David Nussbaum
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychiatry (Neuropsychology)Allegheny Neuropsychiatric Institute and Medical College of PennsylvaniaUSA
  2. 2.Allegheny Neuropsychiatric InstituteOakdale

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