Cognitive impairment in adult-onset adrenoleukodystrophy

Mol Chem Neuropathol. 1990 Jun;12(3):167-76. doi: 10.1007/BF03159942.


Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) is a progressive X-linked disorder that produces pathological changes, mainly in the adrenal cortex and the white matter of the central nervous system. The main biochemical abnormality is the accumulation of saturated unbranched fatty acids with a chain length of 24 or more, referred to as very-long-chain fatty acids (VLCFA). Affected children develop large zones of demyelination associated with perivascular lymphoctyic infiltrations resembling those seen in multiple sclerosis. Adults show a more chronic form of the disease, referred to as adrenomyeloneuropathy (AMN). AMN mainly involves the spinal cord ad peripheral nerves, although the cerebral hemispheres may also be affected. Approximately 15% of female carriers have nervous-system involvement that resembles AMN. It is well known that ALD may initially appear as a psychiatric disorder. In the present study, we have assessed the prevalence of cognitive impairment in a group of AMN patients and neurologically symptomatic ALD heterozygotes initially presenting primarily physical complaints. Sixty percent of these patients demonstrated significant neuropsychological impairment, most commonly a pattern of spared and impaired functions typical of a subcortical dementia. We suggest that this progressive cognitive impairment may underlie other behavioral deficits, affirming the significance of the psychological features of this genetically determined disorder.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adrenoleukodystrophy / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Education
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests