Cortex 2019 Mar 19;117:257-265. Epub 2019 Mar 19.
Neurodegenerative Disease Unit, Department of Clinical Research in Neurology, University of Bari "Aldo Moro", Lecce, Italy; Neurodegenerative Disease Unit, Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Neuroscience and Sense Organs, University of Bari "Aldo Moro", Bari, Italy. Electronic address:
In amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), memory deficits may be primary or secondary to executive dysfunction. We assessed episodic memory and executive function of nondemented ALS patients, comparing episodic memory profiles and learning rates of ALS patients with those of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) subjects and cognitively healthy controls (HC). In a multidisciplinary tertiary centre for motor neuron disease, 72 nondemented ALS patients, 57 amnestic MCI (aMCI), 89 single non amnestic MCI with compromised executive functions (dysexecutive MCI), and 190 HC were enrolled. They were screened using the Frontal Assessment Battery and Mini Mental State Examination. Episodic memory performances and learning rates were tested using the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT). Episodic memory dysfunction (immediate recall) was found in 14 ALS patients (19.4%). The ALS group had lower performance than HC on immediate recall, without differences in learning rate, and better performance than aMCI subjects on all RAVLT measures. Compared to dysexecutive MCI subjects, ALS patients had only better verbal learning abilities. ALS patients with executive dysfunction had a lower score on immediate and delayed recalls, verbal learning, and primacy effect than ALS patients without executive dysfunction. The immediate recall among couples of diagnostic groups differed in a statistically significant way except for the ALS/dysexecutive MCI groups. In ALS patients, episodic memory performances and learning rates appeared to be better than in aMCI subjects and similar to those with dysexecutive MCI, suggesting also a secondary functional damage due to executive impairment.