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Edited by Robin Morris, James Becker. Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004, £60.00 (hardcover), pp 422. ISBN 0-19-850830-1
This book tackles issues relating to the neuropsychology of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) at a number of levels, ranging from detailed accounts of specific cognitive deficits, to the global patterns of impairment seen with different presentations of the disease, to the broad theoretical and clinical approaches that should be adopted when examining cognitive dysfunction across groups, subgroups, and individuals.
The early chapters of the book provide a detailed introduction to Alzheimer’s disease, which is not restricted merely to discussion of the history and general characteristics of the condition, but also tackle a number of much broader questions that weigh upon how our approaches to understanding, investigating, and managing the disease should evolve and develop in the coming years. A particularly excellent chapter by Gray and Della Sala on measuring impairment and charting decline will be of special interest to young researchers wishing to avoid the pitfalls and understand the complexities of tracking objectively a heterogeneous disease across different time points, age bands, and subject groups.
Latterly, a number of specific cognitive neuropsychological disorders are discussed in detail, with clear reference to both their clinical and diagnostic value and also their contribution to our theoretical understanding of brain function and organisation. Among the topics covered in depth, it was somewhat surprising not to find a chapter dealing with visuoperceptual and visuospatial abilities. Given their importance not only for distinguishing between AD and other forms of dementia—for example, frontotemporal lobar degeneration, but also for understanding certain atypical presentations of the disease—for example, biparietal AD, these cognitive skills perhaps merit more than the cursory mention they receive elsewhere in the textbook.
Although the title of the volume might suggest a rather narrow focus upon cognitive aspects of AD, the editors have been more ambitious, and indeed successful, in placing the neuropsychology of AD within the context of the neurobiology, pharmacology, and treatment of the disease. As a result, this textbook represents an important contribution to both the specific and general education of cognitive neuropsychologists, and that of individuals approaching the topic of Alzheimer’s disease from a variety of alternative clinical and scientific backgrounds.