Background: Neuropsychological deficits occur in over half of the stroke survivors and are associated with the reduced functioning and a decline in quality of life. However, the trajectory of recovery and predictors of neuropsychological outcomes over the first year post stroke are poorly understood.
Method: Neuropsychological performance, assessed using the CNS-Vital signs, was examined at 1 month, 6 months and 12 months after ischaemic stroke (IS) in a sample drawn from a population-based study (N = 198).
Results: While mean scores across neuropsychological domains at each time-point fell in the average range, one in five individuals produced very low-range scores for verbal memory, attention and psychomotor speed. Significant improvements were seen for executive functioning, psychomotor speed and cognitive flexibility within 6 months post stroke, but no gains were noted from 6 to 12 months. Stroke-related neurological deficits and depression at baseline significantly contributed to the prediction of neuropsychological function at 12 month follow-up.
Conclusions: In a significant minority of IS survivors, focal deficits are evident in psychomotor speed, verbal memory, executive functions and attention. Significant improvements in these domains were only evident in the first 6 months post stroke. Initial stroke-related neurological deficits and concurrent depression may be the best predictors of later cognitive functioning.