Quantitative and qualitative analyses of clock drawings in Alzheimer's and Huntington's disease

Brain Cogn. 1992 Jan;18(1):70-87. doi: 10.1016/0278-2626(92)90112-y.


Although visuoconstructive impairment has been reported in both Alzheimer's (DAT) and Huntington's (HD) disease, there is little knowledge concerning how this cognitive deficit differs quantitatively and qualitatively in these two progressive dementias. To address this issue, the present study compared performances on the Clock Drawing Test (CDT: command and copy) of 25 DAT patients, 25 equally demented HD patients, and 25 elderly normal controls (NC). In the command condition, both patients groups were significantly impaired compared to the NC group. Although there was no significant difference between DAT and HD patients' total quantitative scores, a qualitative error analysis revealed a number of dissociations between the two patient groups. Graphic difficulties, very common in HD patients, were virtually absent in DAT patients; in contrast, conceptual errors were almost exclusively seen in DAT patients and were related to the severity of their dementia. Perseveration and "stimulus-bound" responses were also more frequent in DAT patients, and both groups made visuospatial errors. In the copy condition, the DAT, but not the HD, patients evidenced a marked improvement in performance. These results indicate that while both DAT and HD patients have significant visuoconstructive difficulties even in the early stages of their disorders, the specific cognitive processes underlying their quantitative impairments are quite different. It is possible that the DAT patients' conceptual errors are yet another indicator of the deterioration of their semantic knowledge.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology*
  • Attention*
  • Concept Formation
  • Dominance, Cerebral
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data*
  • Orientation*
  • Psychometrics
  • Psychomotor Performance*