Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Patients Often Have Dementia

Cognitive impairment seen in 30 percent of patients; more research needed to understand the disease

TUESDAY, March 14 (HealthDay News) -- Almost one-third of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) show signs of cognitive impairment and one in four have dementia, according to a study published in the March issue of the Archives of Neurology.

Gregory A. Rippon, M.D., of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, and colleagues conducted baseline neurologic and neuropsychologic examinations on 40 ALS patients, and compared them with matched controls.

The researchers found that 12 patients (30 percent) had cognitive impairment, and nine (23 percent) met criteria for dementia. They also found an association between increasing severity of ALS and declining verbal fluency, although survival was not affected by cognitive impairment. The cognitive impairment was "in a pattern consistent with frontotemporal lobar dementia," the authors write.

In an accompanying editorial, Michael J. Strong, M.D., of University Hospital in London, Ontario, writes that because the study shows "a significant number of individuals affected with 'dementia' (or an FTD syndrome," more research is needed to truly understand the disease and its effects on patients and caregivers.

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