Cognitive change in motor neurone disease/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (MND/ALS)

J Neurol Sci. 2000 Nov 1;180(1-2):15-20. doi: 10.1016/s0022-510x(00)00425-1.


A motor neuronopathy complicating frontotemporal dementia (FTD) has been recognised and designated FTD/motor neurone disease (MND). FTD is characterised by profound character change and altered social conduct, and executive deficits, reflecting focal degeneration of the frontal and temporal neocortex. The motor neuronopathy comprises bulbar palsy and limb amyotrophy. The major histological change is typically of microvacuolation of the cerebral cortex, with atrophy of the bulbar neurones and anterior horn cells of the spinal cord. Ubiquitinated inclusion bodies occur in large pyramidal cortical neurones and in surviving cranial nerve nuclei and anterior horn cells. Evidence is emerging that some patients with classical MND/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), who are thought not to be demented, develop cognitive deficits in the realm of frontal executive functions. Moreover, frontal lobe abnormalities have been demonstrated by neuroimaging. The findings point to a link between FTD/MND and cMND/ALS and suggest that a proportion of patients with cMND/ALS go on to develop FTD. Patients with cMND/ALS may not be equally vulnerable. The hypothesis is that patients who present with bulbar palsy and amyotrophy, rather than corticospinal and corticobulbar features, may be most susceptible to the development of FTD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / pathology*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / psychology
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / pathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Humans
  • Language Disorders / pathology
  • Language Disorders / psychology
  • Memory Disorders / pathology
  • Memory Disorders / psychology