Clinical investigations in primary care

Front Neurol Neurosci. 2009:24:1-11. doi: 10.1159/000197897. Epub 2009 Jan 26.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that represents the most common form of dementia. The most prominent feature of AD is the decline in cognitive function, with an early impairment of episodic memory. The memory deficit of an AD patient is characterized by the amnestic syndrome of the medial temporal type. As the disease progresses, the condition often manifests in language disorders, visuospatial deficits and executive dysfunctions. Patients often have neuropsychiatric disturbances, as apathy and psychotic symptoms. Loss of autonomy follows cognitive impairment. The clinical diagnosis of AD is based on a complete medical examination with a neuropsychological evaluation. The FCSRT (free and cued selective reminding test) is recommended for the identification of the amnestic syndrome of the medial temporal type, which is defined by: (1) a very poor free recall and (2) a decreased total recall due to an insufficient effect of cueing. The neuropsychological tests should also assess other cognitive functions that may be perturbed in AD, such as executive functions, praxis, visuospatial capacities and language. Neuroimaging and biological exams (genetics, biomarkers) are of great utility in the evaluation. Other medical, neurological, or psychiatric disorders which could account for the impairment in memory and related symptoms must be always investigated.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis*
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Primary Health Care*