, Volume 255, Issue 4, pp 532-538
Date: 18 Feb 2008

Signs of impaired selective attention in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

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The evidence for involvement of extramotor cortical areas in non-demented patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) has been provided by recent neuropsychological and functional brain imaging studies. The aim of this study was to investigate possible alterations in selective attention, as an important constituent part of frontal brain function in ALS patients. A classical dichotic listening task paradigm was employed to assess event-related EEG potential (ERPs) indicators of selective attention as well as preattentive processing of mismatch, without interference by motor impairment.

A total of 20 patients with sporadic ALS according to the revised El Escorial criteria and 20 healthy controls were studied. Additionally a neuropsychological test battery of frontotemporal functions was applied.

Compared with the controls, the ALS patients showed a distinct decrease of the fronto-precentral negative difference wave (Nd), i.e., the main ERP indicator of selective attention. Analysis of the P3 component of the ERPs indicated an increased processing of non-relevant stimuli in ALS patients confirming a reduced focus of attention. We conclude impaired selective attention reflects a subtle variant of frontotemporal dementia frequently observed in ALS patients at a relatively early stage of the disease.