Cognitive profile in Wilson's disease: a case series of 31 patients

Rev Neurol (Paris). 2013 Dec;169(12):944-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neurol.2013.06.002. Epub 2013 Oct 11.


Background: Wilson's disease (WD) is a rare autosomal recessive disorder of copper metabolism. If untreated, WD, which is initially a liver disease, can turn into a multi-systemic disease with neurological involvement. Very few studies have described cognitive impairment in WD. The aim of this study is to report the cognitive profile of 31 treated WD patients.

Methods: Patients were classed into two groups using the Unified Wilson Disease Rating Scale (UWDRS): WD patients without neurological signs (WD-N(-)) (n=13), and WD patients with neurological signs (WD-N(+)) (n=18). The patients participated in a neuropsychological assessment evaluating memory, executive function and visuo-spatial abilities.

Results: Both groups performed well for verbal intelligence and episodic memory skills. However, the majority of these patients exhibited altered performance for at least one cognitive test, particularly in the executive domain. The WD-N(+) group performed less well than the WD-N(-) group on cognitive tests involving rapid motor function, abstract thinking, working memory and top-down inhibitory control.

Conclusions: Cognitive impairment in treated WD patients essentially affects executive function involving fronto-striatal circuits. Verbal intelligence and episodic memory abilities seem to be remarkably preserved. Neuropsychological assessment is a valuable tool to evaluate the presence and the consequences of these cognitive impairments in WD patients with or without neurological signs in the course of this chronic disease.

Keywords: Cognition; Examen neuropsychologique; Executive function; Fonctions exécutives; Maladie de Wilson; Maladie métabolique; Metabolic disease; Neuropsychology; Wilson's disease.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Chelating Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cognition*
  • Executive Function
  • Female
  • Hepatolenticular Degeneration / drug therapy
  • Hepatolenticular Degeneration / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Space Perception
  • Verbal Learning
  • Visual Perception
  • Wechsler Scales
  • Young Adult


  • Chelating Agents