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Comparison of executive and visuospatial memory function in Huntington's disease and dementia of Alzheimer type matched for degree of dementia.
  1. K W Lange,
  2. B J Sahakian,
  3. N P Quinn,
  4. C D Marsden,
  5. T W Robbins
  1. Department of Clinical Neurology, University of London, UK.


    Groups of patients with Hungington's disease and probable dementia of Alzheimer type (DAT) matched for level of dementia on the basis of mini mental state examination scores were compared in several tests of visual memory and tests sensitive to frontal lobe dysfunction. Whereas recall of patients with DAT tended to be worse on the Kendrick object learning test, the two groups were equivalent on tests of sensorimotor ability and delayed matching to sample performance. By contrast, the patients with Huntington's disease were significantly worse on tests of pattern and spatial recognition, simultaneous matching to sample, visuospatial paired associates, and on three tests sensitive to frontal lobe dysfunction--namely, the Tower of London test of planning, spatial working memory, and a visual discrimination learning and reversal paradigm. The impairments in these tests, however, did not always qualitatively resemble those seen in patients with frontal lobe damage and may be more characteristic of primary neostriatal deficit. In the visual discrimination paradigm the patients with Hungtington's disease were significantly worse than the patients with DAT at the simple reversal stage, where they displayed significant preservation to the previously rewarded alternative. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that patients with Huntington's disease exhibit deficits in tests sensitive to frontostriatal dysfunction and that this form of intellectual deterioration is qualitatively distinct from that seen in Alzheimer's disease.

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