Age at onset and language disturbances in Alzheimer's disease

Neuropsychologia. 1998 Sep;36(9):945-9. doi: 10.1016/s0028-3932(98)00010-4.


This study examined the effect of age at symptom onset of Alzheimer's disease (AD) on the pattern of language disturbance. We assessed 150 consecutive patients with a clinical diagnosis of mild-to-moderate AD using the Western Aphasia Battery and a 100-item picture-naming test. A multivariate linear regression analysis examined the effect of age at onset after controlling for gender, education, severity of dementia and duration of the disease. Patients with early onset performed significantly worse than did patients with late onset on the word comprehension and sequential commands subtests. On the other hand, late-onset patients performed more poorly than early-onset patients on the picture-naming test in a subgroup with mild language deficits. However, the trend disappeared in other subgroups with more degraded language function. We consider that the concomitant effects of normal aging worsened the picture-naming deficits in the late-onset patients, and the rapid decline of naming ability in the early-onset patients masked the aging effect with the progression of language deficits. The deterioration of word comprehension and the rapid decline of naming ability are the characteristics of early-onset patients. The different patterns of language deficits between early- and late-onset patients may correspond to the genetic heterogeneity of AD.

MeSH terms

  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Alzheimer Disease* / complications
  • Alzheimer Disease* / physiopathology
  • Anomia / etiology
  • Anomia / physiopathology
  • Aphasia / classification
  • Aphasia / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Speech Perception / physiology