Background: Cognitive impairment secondary to frontal lobe atrophy exists in 40-60% of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) cases. We aimed to determine the prevalence of frontal-lobe mediated behavioral impairment in (ALS) and to ascertain its relationship to cognitive impairment.
Methods: Two-hundred and twenty five patients diagnosed with sporadic ALS were evaluated for behavioral dysfunction using the Frontal Systems Behavior Scale (FrSBe), a validated measure used to examine frontal-lobe mediated behaviors, specifically apathy, executive dysfunction and disinhibition; a total behavior score is also provided. Additionally, a subset of patients also underwent a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation.
Results: Changes in the total FrSBe scores were observed in 24.4% of the patients and 39.6% of the patients had impairment in at least one behavioral domain with symptoms of Apathy being the most common (31.1%). Cognitively impaired ALS patients had worse total (P = 0.05) and apathy scores (P < 0.01); however, behavioral dysfunction was also present in 16% of the cognitively intact patients. Half of the behaviorally intact patients exhibited cognitive impairment. Significant correlations were observed for performance on certain neuropsychological tests (Animal fluency, Block Design, Logical Memory I and Verbal Series Attention Test) and severity of behavioral dysfunction on certain FrSBe sub scores.
Conclusions: Frontal-lobe mediated behavioral dysfunction appears to be common in ALS. Cognitively impaired ALS patients had greater behavioral dysfunction. Recognition of behavioral and cognitive dysfunction may assist health-care providers and care-givers recognize changes in decision-making capacity and treatment compliance of patients with ALS.