Executive functions and speed of mental processing in elderly patients with frontal or nonfrontal ischemic stroke.
Impairments in executive functions have been related to aging and frontal lobe lesions. Aging also causes slowing of mental processing. We examined whether ischemic stroke in the frontal brain area results in dysexecutive syndrome, or whether the frontal stroke causes increased slowing of mental processing. Neurological, radiological and neuropsychological examinations were carried out 3 months post-stroke on 250 ischemic stroke patients (55-85 years) and on 39 healthy control subjects. Of the patients, 62 had frontal and 188 had nonfrontal lesions. The neuropsychological examination comprised several cognitive domains, including tests considered to measure executive functions. The frontal group was slower than the nonfrontal group in tasks measuring speed of mental processing which were time-limited (Trail Making A, Stroop dots and fluency). They were also inferior in the Digit Span backwards task. There were no differences between the groups in other cognitive domains, nor in some tests which are considered to be measures of executive functions (e.g. WCST). Impairments in executive functions were evident in both the frontal and the nonfrontal groups compared with the controls, but no dysexecutive syndrome specifically related to frontal lesions was found. Frontal stroke related mainly to the slowing of mental processing.
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