Progression of cognitive and behavioral disturbances in motor neuron diseases assessed using standard and computer-based batteries

Veronica Castelnovo, Elisa Canu, Nilo Riva, Barbara Poletti, Camilla Cividini, Andrea Fontana, Federica Solca, Vincenzo Silani, Massimo Filippi, Federica Agosta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Detecting and monitoring cognitive and behavioral deficits in motor neuron diseases (MND) is critical due to their considerable clinical impact. In this scenario, computer-based batteries may play an important role. In this study, we investigated the progression of cognitive and behavioral deficits in MND patients using both standard and computer-based neuropsychological batteries. Methods: This is a retrospective study on 74 MND patients (52 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis [ALS], 12 primary lateral sclerosis [PLS], and 10 progressive muscular atrophy [PMA]) who were followed up for 12 months and underwent up to three cognitive/behavioral assessments, 6 months apart, including standard and/or computerized based (the Test of Attentional Performance [TAP]) batteries. Behavioral/cognitive changes were investigated over time using generalized linear model for longitudinal data accounting for time and revised-ALS Functional Rating Scale. Results: Over 12 months, ALS patients showed a global cognitive decline (Mini Mental State Examination) at the standard battery and reduced performance in the alertness, sustained and divided attention, go/nogo, cross-modal and incompatibility TAP tasks. Most of these findings remained significant when ALSFRS-R changes over time were included as covariate in the analyses. ALS patients did not show significant behavioral abnormalities over time. No cognitive and behavioral changes were found in PLS and PMA cases. Conclusions: Computer-based neuropsychological evaluations are able to identify subtle cognitive changes in ALS, unique to this condition. This study highlights the need of specific, accurate and well-tolerated tools for the monitoring of cognitive deficits in MND.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Frontotemporal Degeneration
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020


  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • cognitive decline
  • computer-based neuropsychological evaluation
  • Motor neuron disease
  • test of attentional performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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