Visual attention deficits in Alzheimer’s disease: Relationship to HMPAO SPECT cortical hypoperfusion

Date of Original Version




Abstract or Description

Patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) display a multiplicity of cognitive deficits in domains such as memory, language, and attention, all of which can be clearly linked to the underlying neuropathological alterations. The typical degenerative changes occur early on in the disease in the temporal–parietal lobes, with other brain regions, such as the frontal cortex, becoming more affected as the disease progresses. In light of the importance of the parietal cortex in mediating visuospatial attentional processing, in the present study, we investigated a deficit in covert orienting of visual attention and its relationship to cortical hypoperfusion in AD. We characterized the visual attentional profile of 21 AD patients, relative to that of 26 matched normal individuals, and then assessed the correspondence between behavior and hypoperfusion, as measured by regional cerebral blood flow using SPECT. Relative to controls, the AD group demonstrated a unilateral attentional deficit, with disproportionate slowing in reorienting attention to targets in the left compared to the right hemispace, especially following an invalid peripheral cue. Furthermore, even in the presence of bilateral pathology typical of AD, there was a positive correlation between this unilateral attentional disorder and the magnitude of the right superior parietal lobe hypoperfusion. The association of the altered attentional processing profile (i.e., greater difficulty disengaging attention from right-sided stimuli) with right-hemisphere-predominant hypoperfusion not only confirms the critical role of the right parietal lobe in covert attentional orienting but, more importantly, identifies a potential locus of the behavioral alterations in visuospatial processing in AD.


Published In

Neuropsychologia, 49, 7, 1741-1750.