Comparison of prefrontal atrophy and episodic memory performance in dysexecutive Alzheimer’s disease and behavioural-variant frontotemporal dementia

Stephanie Wong, Maxime Bertoux, Greg Savage, John R. Hodges, Olivier Piguet, Michael Hornberger

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Alzheimer’s disease (AD) sometimes presents with prominent executive dysfunction and associated prefrontal cortex atrophy. The impact of such executive deficits on episodic memory performance as well as their neural correlates in AD, however, remains unclear. The aim of the current study was to investigate episodic memory and brain atrophy in AD patients with relatively spared executive functioning (SEF-AD; n = 12) and AD patients with relatively impaired executive functioning (IEF-AD; n = 23). We also compared the AD subgroups with a group of behavioral-variant frontotemporal dementia patients (bvFTD; n = 22), who typically exhibit significant executive deficits, and age-matched healthy controls (n = 38). On cognitive testing, the three patient groups showed comparable memory profiles on standard episodic memory tests, with significant impairment relative to controls. Voxel-based morphometry analyses revealed extensive prefrontal and medial temporal lobe atrophy in IEF-AD and bvFTD, whereas this was limited to the middle frontal gyrus and hippocampus in SEF-AD. Moreover, the additional prefrontal atrophy in IEF-AD and bvFTD correlated with memory performance, whereas this was not the case for SEF-AD. These findings indicate that IEF-AD patients show prefrontal atrophy in regions similar to bvFTD, and suggest that this contributes to episodic memory performance. This has implications for the differential diagnosis of bvFTD and subtypes of AD.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)889-903
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2016


  • Dementia
  • needs assessment
  • primary health care
  • randomized controlled trial

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