Only subtle cognitive deficits in non–bulbar amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients
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Neuropsychological investigations of amyotrophic sclerosis (ALS) patients revealed considerable discrepancies regarding neurocognitive functions. Some, but not all studies have suggested executive dysfunctioning and memory impairment, and there is a wide range of applied neuropsychological tests and results. In this study, we investigated the neuropsychological performance of 15 non–bulbar ALS patients, 14 patients with neuromuscular symptoms, and 15 healthy controls. To avoid confounding effects of motor disability, performance was assessed using exclusively motor–free tests of frontal lobe functioning (specific memory functions, conditional–associative learning, attention, and executive functions). ALS patients exhibited poorer performance in two conditions (semantic and alternating condition, respectively) of the Verbal Fluency Test, suggesting a subtle executive deficit. No deficits were found in tests of memory, conditionalassociative learning, or attention. Assessed mood status was not related to neuropsychological performance.Verbal memory (CVLT) and verbal fluency (lexical condition) were positively associated with duration of disease. Our results support the view that there are only subtle cognitive deficits in ALS patients and we assume a possible effect of practice on cognitive tasks following reduced daily motor activity.
Key wordsamyotrophic lateral sclerosis neuropsychology cognition verbal fluency prefrontal cortex
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