Send to

Choose Destination
Neurology. 2003 Apr 8;60(7):1094-7.

Are amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients cognitively normal?

Author information

Department of Neurology, University of California at San Francisco, 94143, USA.



Patients with ALS are often told that the disease spares cognition; however, recent evidence suggests deficits in frontal executive skills occur in a sizable minority of ALS patients. In many instances, the frontal executive deficits represent the co-occurrence of frontotemporal lobar dementia (FTLD) and ALS.


Word generation, a simple frontal task that takes <2 minutes, was tested in 100 consecutive patients with ALS seen in the authors' multidisciplinary clinic. Any patient with a prior dementia diagnosis was excluded from the study. A subset of 44 patients agreed to undergo further neuropsychological testing and clinical interview to confirm or deny a diagnosis of dementia.


Diminished word generation was found in one-third. Of the patients with abnormal word generation who agreed to further evaluation, nearly all were shown to meet research criteria for FTLD. In addition, one-quarter of the patients with normal word generation who agreed to further evaluation met research criteria for FTLD; these patients had new-onset personality changes.


This study suggests that frontal executive deficits are present in half of ALS patients, many of whom meet strict research criteria for FTLD. Word generation tests are a useful screening tool in this cohort.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire
Loading ...
Support Center