We compared the performance of patients with Alzheimer’s disease to that of patients with subcortical vascular dementia (s-IVD) in a set of tasks assessing categorization abilities, sustained and selective attention, and set-shifting and set-maintaining skills. Only the measures of naming and categorization abilities on the Test of Classification and Recall of Pictures (TCRP) proved useful in differentiating AD from s-IVD patients. s-IVD patients showed worse performance than AD on the TCRP categorization measures, while both AD and s-IVD patients were equally impaired in other tasks assessing executive functions (EF). With respect to the naming task, s-IVD patients made significantly more perseverative and unrelated errors than AD patients. Moreover, in the s-IVD group, we found a strong correlation between categorization ability and an attentional test score (Attentional Matrices), while no such correlation emerged in the AD group. These results suggest a dissociated impairment of EF in the 2 dementia groups. In our view, the lack of inhibition and the inability to manipulate complex information are responsible for a greater executive dysfunction in s-IVD patients in comparison with AD patients. The capacity to build up strategies appears more preserved in AD patients, whose impaired performance in executive tasks seems to be related to an impairment of attentional shifting and working memory.

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