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Neuropsychology of vitamin B12 deficiency in elderly dementia patients and control subjects.

Kaplan Hospital, Rehovot, Israel and the Department of Behavioral Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel.
Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology (Impact Factor: 1.63). 04/2005; 18(1):33-8. DOI: 10.1177/0891988704272308
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Cobalamin deficiency may cause cognitive deficits and even dementia. In Alzheimer's disease, the most frequent cause of dementia in elderly persons, low serum levels of vitamin B12, may be misleading. The aim of this work was to characterize the cognitive pattern of B12 deficiency and to compare it with that of Alzheimer's disease. Nineteen patients with low levels of vitamin B12 were neuropsychologically evaluated before treatment and a year later. Results were compared with those of 10 healthy control subjects. Final results suggest that there is a different pattern in both diseases. Twelve elderly patients with dementia improved with treatment. Seven elderly demented patients did not improve; they deteriorated after 1 year although their levels of cobalamin were normal. Analysis of the initial evaluation showed that the 2 groups of patients had a different neuropsychological profile. The group that improved had initially more psychotic problems and more deficits in concentration, visuospatial performance, and executive functions. They did not show language problems and ideomotor apraxia, which were present in the second group. Their memory pattern was also different. These findings suggest that cobalamin deficiency may cause a reversible dementia in elderly patients. This dementia may be differentiated from that of Alzheimer's disease by a thorough neuropsychological evaluation.

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