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Stroke. 2004 Jul;35(7):1598-602. Epub 2004 May 13.

Insidious cognitive decline in CADASIL.

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  • 1Division of Clinical Geriatrics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.



Cerebral autosomal-dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy (CADASIL) causes repeated ischemic attacks leading to subcortical vascular dementia. The aim of this study was to characterize cognitive function in subjects with a C475T (R133C) mutation in the Notch3 gene, leading to CADASIL.


Prestroke (n=13) and poststroke (n=13) mutation carriers and mutation carriers with dementia (n=8) were compared with healthy noncarriers from the same families using a comprehensive set of neuropsychological tests.


Changes in working memory and executive function were observed in the very early phase of the disease before transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke. Later, in the poststroke phase, the cognitive impairment concerned also mental speed and visuospatial ability. Finally, the subjects with dementia had multiple cognitive deficits, which engaged even verbal functions, verbal episodic memory, and motor speed. The 2 mutation carrier groups without dementia and the controls could be reliably distinguished using 3 tests that assessed working memory/attention, executive function, and mental speed. Episodic memory was relatively well-preserved late in the disease.


A deterioration of working memory and executive function was already observed in the prestroke phase, which means that cognitive decline may start insidiously before the first onset of symptomatic ischemic episodes.

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