Insight in dementia: When does it occur? Evidence for a nonlinear relationship between insight and cognitive status

Orazio Zanetti, Barbara Vallotti, Giovanni B. Frisoni, Cristina Geroldi, Angelo Bianchetti, Patrizio Pasqualetti, Marco Trabucchi

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Lack of insight or impaired awareness of deficits in patients with dementia is a relatively neglected area of study. The aim of this study was to evaluate insight in a group of demented patients with two assessment scales and to assess their relationship with the cognitive level of disease severity. Sixty-nine consecutive patients affected by Alzheimer's disease (n = 37) and vascular dementia (n = 32) with a wide range of cognitive impairment (MMSE = 17.0 ± 6.4) were recruited. Insight was evaluated with the Guidelines for the Rating of Awareness Deficits (GRAD) - specifically targeted to memory deficits - and the Clinical Insight Rating scale (CIR), evaluating a broader spectrum of insight (reason for the visit, cognitive deficits, functional deficits, and perception of the progression of the disease). In the whole sample, GRAD and CIR were significantly associated with MMSE (Spearman's coefficient = .51, p <.001; and r = -.55, p <.001) and with Clinical Dementia Rating scale (-.57, p <.001; and r = .57, p <.001) respectively. The shape of the relationship of MMSE with CIR and GRAD scales was assessed with spline smoothers suggesting that the relationship follows a trilinear pattern and is similar for both scales. Insight was uniformly high for MMSE scores ≥24, showed a linear decrease between MMSE scores of 23 and 13, and was uniformly low for MMSE scores ≤12. The trilinear model of the association between insight and cognitive status reflects more closely the observable decline of insight and can provide estimates of when the decline of insight begins and ends.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Ageing
  • Psychology(all)


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