Neuropsychological Assessment Helpful in Monitoring the Course of Alzheimer’s disease

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

Share this article:

Share article via email

alzheimer's MRIAccording to a recent study conducted by a researcher from the University of Eastern Finland, the cognitive functioning of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and their behavioral and psychological difficulties are associated with their daily living activities. However, the researchers found that deficits in cognitive performance were not associated with behavioral and psychological difficulties, despite the fact that both deteriorate as the disease progresses.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most prevalent type of dementia, causes major problems in memory and other cognitive features. AD is a condition associated with a decline in daily performance of activities and an increased need for assistance as the disease progresses. The condition is related to both behavioral and psychological problems, and there is a need to improve assessment methods for the planning of the treatment as the disease progresses.

Ilona Hallikainen, a PhD researcher at the University of Eastern Finland, conducted her study in AD progression after diagnosis, and highlights the feasibility of the CERAD neuropsychological test battery in the monitoring the disease progression. A total of 236 patients with AD and their caregivers were followed for three years. Data was sought from three different Finnish hospital districts. The PhD work was part of a multidisciplinary project called the ALSOVA study that was managed by the Institute of Clinical Medicine (Neurology) at the University of Eastern Finland.

According to a news release, results revealed that the deficit in cognitive functioning, daily living activities, behavioral and psychological symptoms worsen with AD progression. However, in the study about 50% of participants were given a diagnosis of mild Alzheimer’s after the three-year study follow-up. Results showed that patients who were diagnosed at baseline with a mild form of Alzheimer’s and whose treatment begun in the early phase of the disease had a slower decline in their functioning of activities of daily living and less frequent presence of behavioral problems.

The CERAD is a neuropsychological test battery that is commonly used as an early detection tool for Alzheimer’s disease. However, the CERAD has limited use in clinical settings, as it requires a long period of time to assess and monitor AD-related symptomatology. Results from the study showed that the neuropsychological test (that includes the assessment of language, visual perception, global cognition, and executive function) may be more useful for follow-up evaluation.

Based on the results and although memory problems are usually the first symptoms of AD, the role played by other cognitive deficits was found to increase as the disease progresses. Findings from this study can shed light on new monitoring of the disease both in research and in clinical settings.