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Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2006;22(1):54-9. Epub 2006 May 8.

Heterogeneity in executive impairment in patients with very mild Alzheimer's disease.

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Memory Disorders Research Unit, Neuroscience Center, Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet, Denmark.



The presence of executive impairment in mild Alzheimer's disease (AD) has primarily been demonstrated by means of group comparison. Whether executive dysfunction is a common feature of mild AD or only present in a subgroup of patients remains unclear. The aim of this study was to describe the frequency of impairment on a set of internationally well-known executive tests in patients with very mild AD.


Thirty-six patients with very mild AD (MMSE scores above 23) and 32 healthy control subjects were administered a battery of 7 executive tests: Trail Making part B, Stroop Interference Test, modified Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), category- and letter-based verbal fluency, a design fluency task and the Similarities subtest from WAIS. Impairment was defined as a score of 2 SD or more below control means.


Executive impairment on at least 1 measure was seen in 76% of the patients, and 50% were impaired on 2 or more tests. Trail Making B and Stroop Interference Test were impaired in more than 40%, whereas only few patients were impaired on Similarities, WCST and design fluency. A wide variation of executive test profiles was seen among the patients.


Executive impairments are common in early AD and not just a feature characteristic of a subgroup of patients. Complex attentional skills are more frequently affected than other executive functions. There is, however, considerable heterogeneity among AD patients in the pattern of executive dysfunction.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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