Social cognition and behavioral changes in patients with posterior cortical atrophy

J Neurol. 2024 Mar;271(3):1439-1450. doi: 10.1007/s00415-023-12089-z. Epub 2023 Nov 30.


Posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) is a rare neurodegenerative condition characterized by progressive visual and visuospatial dysfunction. The consensus criteria state that patients should present "relatively spared behavior and personality" in early stages. However, limited research has focused on these symptoms in PCA. This study compared 157 patients with PCA in early stages of the disease with 352 healthy controls (HC), 202 typical AD (tAD), and 177 logopenic variant primary progressive aphasia (lvPPA) patients from the National Alzheimer's Coordinating Center (NACC) dataset. They were compared using clinician ratings of behavioral symptoms, informant- and clinician-filled questionnaires and patient-facing tests of behavior and social cognition. Results showed that PCA individuals exhibited many behavioral symptoms, the more frequently reported being anxiety, depression, apathy, and irritability. During cognitive testing, clinicians observed disorganized and reactive behaviors, but no insensitive behaviors. Informant reports indicated that PCA patients exhibited higher levels of inhibition and anxiety in response to stimuli associated with non-reward, novelty, and punishment. Social norms knowledge and empathy were overall preserved, although slight decreases in perspective-taking and socioemotional sensitivity were observed on informant-rated questionnaires. Except for more elevated neuropsychiatric symptoms in tAD, the three AD variants had similar profiles. Our findings provide insights into the social cognition and behavioral profiles of PCA, highlighting patterns of preservations and mild impairments, even in the early stages of the disease. These results contribute to a more complete understanding of non-visual symptoms in PCA and have implications for diagnostic and intervention strategies.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Behavior; Emotion; Neuropsychology; Posterior cortical atrophy; Social cognition.

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease*
  • Atrophy / complications
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases* / complications
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Social Cognition