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Attention deficits in Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia
  1. Bernadette McGuinness1,
  2. Suzanne L Barrett2,
  3. David Craig1,
  4. John Lawson3,
  5. A Peter Passmore1
  1. 1Department of Geriatric Medicine Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK
  2. 2Department of Mental Health, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK
  3. 3Radiology Department, Belfast City Hospital, Belfast, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Bernadette McGuinness, Department of Geriatric Medicine, Whitla Medical Building, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL, UK; b.mcguinness{at}


Objective To compare the performance of patients with mild–moderate Alzheimer's disease (AD) and vascular dementia (VaD) on tests of information processing and attention.

Method Patients with AD (n=75) and VaD (n=46) were recruited from a memory clinic along with dementia-free participants (n=28). They underwent specific tests of attention from the Cognitive Drug Research battery, and pen and paper tests including Colour Trails A and B and Stroop. All patients had a CT brain scan that was independently scored for white-matter change/ischaemia.

Results Attention was impaired in both AD and VaD patients. VaD patients had more impaired choice reaction times and were less accurate on a vigilance test measuring sustained attention. Deficits in selective and divided attention occurred in both patient groups and showed the strongest correlations with Mini Mental State Examination scores.

Conclusion This study demonstrates problems with the attentional network in mild–moderate AD and VaD. The authors propose that attention should be tested routinely in a memory clinic setting.

  • Attention
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • information processing
  • reaction time
  • vascular dementia

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by the Research Ethics Committee of Queen's University Belfast (application no 249/03).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.