Clinical applications of cognitive event-related potentials in Alzheimer's disease

John M Olichney, Dieter G. Hillert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

42 Scopus citations

Abstract

This article has reviewed several abnormalities in the cognitive ERPs of AD patients. These abnormalities are prominent from latencies of approximately 200 msec and later. In contrast, sensory-dependent evoked potentials, such as N100, are generally normal in AD. This finding is as one familiar with the neuropathology of AD would predict. Predilection sites in early AD include the medial temporal lobe, other limbic areas, and multimodal association cortices with sparing of primary sensory areas. Unimodal association cortex is involved in AD, but not as heavily as multimodal cortex. Particular advantages of studying a given ERP paradigm or component depend largely on the specific application or hypothesis being tested. A P300 paradigm can be useful in detecting a disorder of attention or in quantifying the effects of drugs that improve attention, such as the cholinesterase inhibitors. For the early diagnosis of AD or other memory disorders, a word-repetition paradigm with an explicit recognition task or one that fosters associative learning would be recommended. This article has discussed potential use of N400 in tracking disease progression. ERPs provide a flexible and powerful technique, with superb temporal resolution, which can be used as a probe into subtle "subclinical" abnormalities of cognitive processes. Despite being applied to AD for about 25 years since the early P300 studies, the full potential of ERPs in helping diagnose and treat AD patients has yet to be realized. In this era of rapidly evolving brain-imaging techniques, electrophysiologic data are important in advancing understanding of cognition. Brain-mapping techniques that can inform where and when key cognitive processes occur are finally emerging. A final example of potential clinical application of cognitive ERPs is in the development of rational combinational treatment of cognitive enhancing drugs. Along these lines, P300 investigations in epilepsy proved helpful in ranking the cognitive side effects of anticonvulsant drugs [104]. Drug studies that use 2×2 combinational designs, which compare the effects of drugA, drug B, with A + B, are currently prohibitively expensive for full-scale clinical trials in AD. It is likely that precise ERP measures could hasten drug development in several ways. Smaller samples could be used, at lower cost, to test the cognitive effects of each specific drug combination. Optimal doses of combinational therapy perhaps could be identified by repeated within-subject ERP measures. Longitudinal changes in the ERP hold promise as a marker of individual responsivity to a particular agent, which could have diagnostic utility (eg, testing response to cholinergic or dopaminergic therapy). This horizon and many others remain wide open for well-planned explorations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-233
Number of pages29
JournalPhysical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America
Volume15
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation

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