Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is associated with impaired executive control. The aim of the current research was to test the hypothesis that concept formation deficits associated with an extra-motor neurocognitive network involving executive and semantic resources can be found in some ALS patients.
Forty-one patients with clinically-definite ALS were assessed with Delis Kaplan Executive Function System Sorting Test (D-KEFS), a measure of concept formation requiring patients to manipulate verbal and visual semantic information and neuropsychological tests measuring naming, semantic memory, and executive control. Using D-KEFS scale scores, a k-mean cluster analysis specifying a 3-group solution was able to classify ALS patients into groups presenting with mildly impaired, average, and above average sorting test performance. High resolution T1 structural MRI was used to examine cortical thickness in a subset of 16 ALS patients.
Step-wise regression analyses related free and recognition sorting test performance to measures of action naming, single word semantic knowledge, and mental search/working memory. MRI studies found widespread cortical thinning involving bilateral frontal, temporal and parietal regions. Regression analyses related recognition sorting performance to reduced MRI cortical thickness involving the left prefrontal and left parietal cortex.
An extra-motor cognitive network is associated with impaired concept formation in ALS.