Dementia and cognitive impairment in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a review

Neurol Sci. 2011 Feb;32(1):9-16. doi: 10.1007/s10072-010-0439-6. Epub 2010 Oct 16.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is generally considered to be a paradigm of pure motor neuron disorder; nevertheless, the possible occurrence of cognitive impairment up to a frank dementia in patients affected by ALS is recognized. The appraisal of the cognitive impairment in ALS patients is crucial not only to the therapeutic trials of this incurable disease, but also to the planning of care, compliance to interventions, the end-of-life decisions. The cognitive/behavioral changes of ALS patients are consistent with frontotemporal dysfunctions; the overlap of neuropathological features of ALS and frontotemporal lobe degeneration (FTLD) supports, in addition, the putative spectrum of ALS and FTD. In the present review, the pertinent clinical, genetic, neuropathological, neuropsychological and neuroimaging data of the literature are comprehensively and critically discussed. The distinct and overlapping features of ALS and FTD are pointed out, as well as the undisclosed questions deserving additional studies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / complications*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / genetics
  • Behavioral Symptoms / diagnosis
  • Behavioral Symptoms / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Dementia / diagnosis*
  • Dementia / etiology*
  • Humans