Background The clinical diagnosis of Huntington’s disease (HD) is based on motor symptoms, although these can be preceded by cognitive changes. However, it is still difficult to predict the clinical onset of HD based on neuropsychological tests. Increasingly, social cognition impairments have been found in HD patients. In recent studies, social cognition has been put forward as possible predictor of the clinical diagnosis in premanifest HD patients.
Aims The aim of the present study was to assess whether impairments in social cognition might be a more sensitive predictor of the onset of the disease than non-social cognitive impairments. Therefore we wanted to assess whether impairments in social cognition preceded deterioration of general cognitive functions in premanifest gene carriers and whether social cognition was related to non-social cognition measures in a group of premanifest and manifest HD patients.
Methods/Techniques A cohort of 14 premanifest gene carriers of HD and 40 manifest HD patients were assessed on psychomotor speed, executive functioning, verbal and categorical fluency and emotion recognition.
Results/outcome In the premanifest stage, patients did not have lower scores on emotion recognition as compared to general cognitive tasks. In the manifest group and combined group correlations were found between social and non-social cognition tasks, but this was not found in the premanifest group.
Conclusions Overall, disease progression seems to affect both social and non-social cognition equally. Based on the present study social cognition is unlikely to be indicative in the premanifest stage for conversion to the manifest stage of HD.
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