To further clarify the cognitive syndrome in subcortical vascular dementia (VaD), we investigated 20 patients with early-stage VaD as compared with 30 patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and 22 normal controls using episodic memory, attention/executive function and language tests. The patient groups were closely matched in terms of age, education and severity of dementia. The VaD patients had a significantly better free recall, cued recall and recognition memory than AD patients, the recognition being within normal limits in VaD. In addition, VaD patients had a greater number of perseverative errors during the Modified Card Sorting test, while AD patients exhibited more perseverations of semantic fluency. The results of retrieval deficit syndrome and increased number of perseverations during tasks sensitive to frontal lobe function are in agreement with the studies emphasizing the importance of frontal dysfunction in subcortical VaD. These findings are relevant for the early diagnosis of VaD and might be useful in the differential diagnosis with AD.

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