Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Distinctive cognitive profiles in Alzheimer’s disease and subcortical vascular dementia
  1. N L Graham,
  2. T Emery,
  3. J R Hodges
  1. University of Cambridge Neurology Unit, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, and MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, 15 Chaucer Rd, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor John R Hodges
 MRC-CBU, 15 Chaucer Road, Cambridge CB2 2EF, UK;


Background: There are inconsistencies in published reports regarding the profile of cognitive impairments in vascular dementia, and its differentiation from Alzheimer’s disease.

Objectives: To identify the overall profile of cognitive impairment in subcortical vascular dementia as compared with Alzheimer’s disease; and the tests which best discriminate between these groups.

Methods: 57 subjects participated: 19 with subcortical vascular dementia, 19 with Alzheimer’s disease, and 19 controls. The dementia groups were matched for age, education, and general levels of cognitive and everyday functioning. Subcortical vascular dementia was defined by clinical features (prominent vascular risk factors plus a previous history of transient ischaemic events or focal neurological signs) and substantial white matter pathology on magnetic resonance imaging. All subjects were given a battery of 33 tests assessing episodic and semantic memory, executive/attentional functioning, and visuospatial and perceptual skills.

Results: Despite a minimal degree of overall dementia, both patient groups had impairments in all cognitive domains. The Alzheimer patients were more impaired than those with vascular dementia on episodic memory, while the patients with vascular dementia were more impaired on semantic memory, executive/attentional functioning, and visuospatial and perceptual skills. Logistic regression analyses showed that the two groups could be discriminated with 89% accuracy on the basis of two tests, the WAIS logical memory – delayed recall test and a silhouette naming test.

Conclusions: Subcortical vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease produce distinctive profiles of cognitive impairment which can act as an adjunct to diagnosis. Many of the neuropsychological deficits thought to characterise Alzheimer’s disease are also found in subcortical vascular dementia.

  • dementia
  • differential diagnosis
  • semantic memory
  • ACE, Addenbrooke’s cognitive examination
  • CBI, Cambridge behavioural inventory
  • CDR, clinical dementia rating scale
  • MMSE, mini-mental state examination
  • RMT, recognition memory test
  • TEA, test of everyday attention
  • VOSP, visual object and space perception battery
  • WAIS-R, Wechsler adult intelligence scale – revised
View Full Text

Statistics from


  • Competing interests: none declared

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.