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Open Access Research article

Prospective memory tasks: a more sensitive method for screening cognitive impairment in ALS?

Ying Ji1, Ling Wei2, Dehua Chui13, Kai Wang2* and Dongsheng Fan1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Neurology, Peking University Third Hospital, Beijing, China

2 Department of Neurology, Anhui Medical University First Hospital, Hefei, China

3 Neuroscience Research Institute, Peking University, Beijing, China

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BMC Neurology 2012, 12:142  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-12-142

Published: 21 November 2012



Cognitive change is prevalent in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), but still lack a widely accepted and sensitive screening method. In this study, we try to find a sensitive screening battery for detecting subtle cognitive deficits in patients with ALS.


Eighty consecutive ALS patients and 57 matched normal controls underwent the Mini-Mental Status Examination (MMSE), the verbal fluency test (VFT), the Stroop Color Word Interference Test (CWT), and the prospective memory (PM) tests, including event-based (EBPM) and time-based (TBPM).


The patients did not differ from the controls in the MMSE, the VFT and the CWT. By contrast, statistically significant differences were found in the PM tests (EBPM: P=0.043; TBPM: P<0.001). More interestingly, TBPM was more sensitive than EBPM in the early-phase patients.


Prefrontal lobar dysfunction does exist among ALS patients and may spread from the medial to the lateral region. The PM tests seem more sensitive in ALS patients with frontotemporal dysfunction than are the classical cognitive measures.