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Objective: White matter (WM) microstructural changes are
increasingly recognized as a mechanism of age-related cognitive differences.
This study examined the associations between patterns of WM microstructure and
cognitive performance on the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)
Brain Health Assessment (BHA) subtests of memory (Favorites), executive
functions and speed (Match), and visuospatial skills (Line Orientation) within a
sample of older adults. Method: Fractional anisotropy (FA) in WM
tracts and BHA performance were examined in 84 older adults diagnosed as
neurologically healthy (47), with mild cognitive impairment (19), or with
dementia (18). The relationships between FA and subtest performances were
evaluated using regression analyses. We then explored whether regional WM
predicted performance after accounting for variance explained by global FA.
Results: Memory performance was associated with FA of the
fornix and the superior cerebellar peduncle; and executive functions and speed,
with the body of the corpus callosum. The fornix–memory association and
the corpus callosum–executive association remained significant after
accounting for global FA. Neither tract-based nor global FA was associated with
visuospatial performance. Conclusions: Memory and executive
functions are associated with different patterns of WM diffusivity. Findings add
insight into WM alterations underlying age- and disease-related cognitive
Objectives: The aim of this study was to identify whether the three main primary progressive aphasia (PPA) variants would show differential profiles on measures of visuospatial cognition. We hypothesized that the logopenic variant would have the most difficulty across tasks requiring visuospatial and visual memory abilities. Methods: PPA patients (n=156), diagnosed using current criteria, and controls were tested on a battery of tests tapping different aspects of visuospatial cognition. We compared the groups on an overall visuospatial factor; construction, immediate recall, delayed recall, and executive functioning composites; and on individual tests. Cross-sectional and longitudinal comparisons were made, adjusted for disease severity, age, and education. Results: The logopenic variant had significantly lower scores on the visuospatial factor and the most impaired scores on all composites. The nonfluent variant had significant difficulty on all visuospatial composites except the delayed recall, which differentiated them from the logopenic variant. In contrast, the semantic variants performed poorly only on delayed recall of visual information. The logopenic and nonfluent variants showed decline in figure copying performance over time, whereas in the semantic variant, this skill was remarkably preserved. Conclusions: This extensive examination of performance on visuospatial tasks in the PPA variants solidifies some previous findings, for example, delayed recall of visual stimuli adds value in differential diagnosis between logopenic variant PPA and nonfluent variant PPA variants, and illuminates the possibility of common mechanisms that underlie both linguistic and non-linguistic deficits in the variants. Furthermore, this is the first study that has investigated visuospatial functioning over time in the PPA variants. (JINS, 2018, 24, 259–268)
Executive functioning is widely targeted when human cognition is assessed, but there is little consensus on how it should be operationalized and measured. Recognizing the difficulties associated with establishing standard operational definitions of executive functioning, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke entered into a contract with the University of California-San Francisco to develop psychometrically robust executive measurement tools that would be accepted by the neurology clinical trials and clinical research communities. This effort, entitled Executive Abilities: Measures and Instruments for Neurobehavioral Evaluation and Research (EXAMINER), resulted in a series of tasks targeting working memory, inhibition, set shifting, fluency, insight, planning, social cognition and behavior. We describe battery conceptualization and development, data collection, scale construction based on item response theory, and lay the foundation for studying the battery's utility and validity for specific assessment and research goals. (JINS, 2013, 19, 1–9)
Theories of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) increasingly highlight the role of neuropsychological impairment in ADHD; however, a consistent and identifiable pattern of performance on tests is not well established. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Executive Abilities: Measures and Instruments for Neurobehavioral Evaluation and Research (EXAMINER) battery provides measures of common variance across multiple executive function tests within specific domains and was used to characterize which executive functions are most affected in children with ADHD. Thirty-two children (24 male), ages 8–15 years (M = 12.02; SD = 2.29), diagnosed with ADHD and no comorbid disorder completed the NIH EXAMINER battery. Sixty age and gender matched healthy controls were chosen from a database of participants enrolled in the NIH EXAMINER multi-site study. Children with ADHD performed worse on the working memory score compared with the controls. No differences were found on the cognitive control or fluency scores. For children with ADHD, poorer working memory performance predicted parent report of child learning problems. Cognitive control and fluency scores did not predict learning problems. In summary, working memory emerges as a primary impairment in children with ADHD who have no comorbid disorders. Furthermore, working memory weaknesses may underlie the academic problems often seen in children with ADHD. (JINS, 2013, 19, 1–11)
Executive functions refer to a constellation of higher-level cognitive abilities that enable goal-oriented behavior. The NIH EXAMINER battery was designed to assess executive functions comprehensively and efficiently. Performance can be summarized by a single score, the “Executive Composite,” which combines measures of inhibition, set-shifting, fluency, and working memory. We evaluated the ecological validity of the Executive Composite in a sample of 225 mixed neurological patients and controls using the Frontal Systems Behavior Scale (FrSBe), an informant-based measure of real-world executive behavior. In addition, we investigated the neuroanatomical correlates of the Executive Composite using voxel-based morphometry in a sample of 37 participants diagnosed with dementia, mild cognitive impairment, or as neurologically healthy. The Executive Composite accounted for 28% of the variance in Frontal Systems Behavior Scale scores beyond age. Even after including two widely used executive function tests (Trails B and Stroop) as covariates, the Executive Composite remained a significant predictor of real-world behavior. Anatomically, poorer scores on the Executive Composite were associated with smaller right and left dorsolateral prefrontal volumes, brain regions critical for good executive control. Taken together, these results suggest that the Executive Composite measures important aspects of executive function not captured by standard measures and reflects the integrity of frontal systems. (JINS, 2013, 19, 1–9)
On tests of design fluency, an examinee draws as many different designs as possible in a specified time limit while avoiding repetition. The neuroanatomical substrates and diagnostic group differences of design fluency repetition errors and total correct scores were examined in 110 individuals diagnosed with dementia, 53 with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and 37 neurologically healthy controls. The errors correlated significantly with volumes in the right and left orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), the right and left superior frontal gyrus, the right inferior frontal gyrus, and the right striatum, but did not correlate with volumes in any parietal or temporal lobe regions. Regression analyses indicated that the lateral OFC may be particularly crucial for preventing these errors, even after excluding patients with behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) from the analysis. Total correct correlated more diffusely with volumes in the right and left frontal and parietal cortex, the right temporal cortex, and the right striatum and thalamus. Patients diagnosed with bvFTD made significantly more repetition errors than patients diagnosed with MCI, Alzheimer's disease, semantic dementia, progressive supranuclear palsy, or corticobasal syndrome. In contrast, total correct design scores did not differentiate the dementia patients. These results highlight the frontal-anatomic specificity of design fluency repetitions. In addition, the results indicate that the propensity to make these errors supports the diagnosis of bvFTD. (JINS, 2012, 18, 1–11)
There is increasing recognition that set-shifting, a form of cognitive control, is mediated by different neural structures. However, these regions have not yet been carefully identified as many studies do not account for the influence of component processes (e.g., motor speed). We investigated gray matter correlates of set-shifting while controlling for component processes. Using the Design Fluency (DF), Trail Making Test (TMT), and Color Word Interference (CWI) subtests from the Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS), we investigated the correlation between set-shifting performance and gray matter volume in 160 subjects with neurodegenerative disease, mild cognitive impairment, and healthy older adults using voxel-based morphometry. All three set-shifting tasks correlated with multiple, widespread gray matter regions. After controlling for the component processes, set-shifting performance correlated with focal regions in prefrontal and posterior parietal cortices. We also identified bilateral prefrontal cortex and the right posterior parietal lobe as common sites for set-shifting across the three tasks. There was a high degree of multicollinearity between the set-shifting conditions and the component processes of TMT and CWI, suggesting DF may better isolate set-shifting regions. Overall, these findings highlight the neuroanatomical correlates of set-shifting and the importance of controlling for component processes when investigating complex cognitive tasks. (JINS, 2010, 16, 640–650.)
Good cognitive performance requires adherence to rules specific to the task at hand. Patients with neurological disease often make rule violation (RV) errors, but the anatomical basis for RV during cognitive testing remains debated. The present study examined the neuroanatomical correlates of RV errors made on tests of executive functioning in 166 subjects diagnosed with neurodegenerative disease or as neurologically healthy. Specifically, RV errors were voxel-wisely correlated with gray matter volume derived from high-definition magnetic resonance images using voxel-based morphometry implemented in SPM2. Latent variable analysis showed that RV errors tapped a unitary construct separate from repetition errors. This analysis was used to generate factor scores to represent what is common among RV errors across tests. The extracted RV factor scores correlated with tissue loss in the lateral middle and inferior frontal gyri and the caudate nucleus bilaterally. When a more stringent control for global cognitive functioning was applied using Mini Mental State Exam scores, only the correlations with the right lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) remained significant. These data underscore the importance of right lateral PFC in behavioral monitoring and highlight the potential of RV error assessment for identifying patients with damage to this region. (JINS, 2009, 15, 354–364.)
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