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Vascular Cognitive Impairment. Stroke Strategies SLP Network September 25, 2010 Angela South University of Western Ontario Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. Disclosures. Funding from Parkinson’s Society Canada

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Vascular cognitive impairment

Vascular Cognitive Impairment

Stroke Strategies SLP Network

September 25, 2010

Angela South

University of Western Ontario Health and Rehabilitation Sciences



Funding from Parkinson’s Society Canada

CIHR, NSERC, Parkinson’s Society Canada and Alzheimer’s Society funded laboratories

Vascular cognitive impairment

A man does not consist of memory alone. He has feeling, will, sensibilities, moral being --- matters of which neuropsychology cannot speak. And it is here, beyond the realm of an impersonal psychology, that you may find ways to touch him, and change him.

Luria AR From a personal letter to Oliver Sacks quoted in his 1985 book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat London: Picador (p.32)



  • Review the incidence and prevalence of dementia and vascular cognitive impairment

  • Define vascular cognitive impairment and subtypes

  • Define the risk factors for vascular cognitive impairment

  • Discuss the impact of post-stroke cognitive impairment

  • Review a historical perspective of VCI

  • Discuss deficits specific to VaD and VCI

  • Discuss potential assessment and treatment implications

Historical perspective the pendulum swings

Historical Perspective – the pendulum swings

  • In 1896 Kraepelin made the first distinction between VaD and the tangles of AD on pathology examination

  • Vascular etiologies were thought to account for almost all dementia cases until the 1960’s and 70’s when focus shifted to AD pathologies

  • Now the pendulum is shifting back to a vascular etiology with a focus on the overlap between AD-VCI

Vascular cognitive impairment

  • Dr. Hachinski first to describe Multi-infarct dementia (MID) and this was the center of the VaD discussion

  • Today – the term VaD is used in a much wider context than Hachinski, et al first described

  • MID has lost popularity because VaD can be caused by single infarcts. It is used more now as a subtype of VaD

  • A struggle for a taxonomy

    • Vascular cognitive impairment (VCI) vs Vascular dementia (VaD) vs. VCI-ND

    • Vascular cognitive disorder (VCD) including VaD and VCI (equating more to MCI of vascular etiology) (Gustavo, et al, 2004)

Dementia epidemiology worldwide

Dementia Epidemiology – Worldwide*

35.6 million estimated 2010 (24.2M 2001; 4.6M new cases/yr)

46% Asia

30% Europe

12% North America

Doubling ~ every 20 years

65.7M 2030; 115.4M 2050

Majority (57.7%) live in low and middle income countries

40% increase Europe over next 20 yrs

63%↑North America

77% ↑ southern Latin America; 134-146% rest of Latin America

89% ↑ Asia Pacific; 117% East Asia; 107% South Asia

125% ↑ North Africa and Middle East

$315 B (2005 US $) costs for dementia care/yr worldwide

* Alzheimer’s Disease International World Report, 2009 ; Ferri et al., 2005; Wimo et al., 2003

Dementia epidemiology selected countries

Dementia Epidemiology – Selected Countries


5.3 million

~ 500,000 < 65 yrs old (~ 200 K with AD)

~ $148 billion/yr for care

UK (


~15,000 < 65 yrs old

> £17 billion/yr for care

2/3 live in community

Epidemiology and demographics pr evalence canada

Epidemiology and Demographics:Prevalence – Canada*

  • ~ 500,000 (8% of 65+) (% distribution: community = institutions)

  • 103,000 new cases/yr (70,000 DAT)(CSHA, 2000)

  • +71,000 < 65 yrs old

  • ~1.5-2 ♀: 1 ♂

  • 2.4% 65-74 yrs

  • 34.5% 85+ yrs

  • > 592,000 cases by 2021 (65 yrs + = 23-24% total pop)

  • # cases will triple by 2031 (close to 1 million)

(; Alz. Soc. Canada, 2010; CSHA I Working Group, 1994, CMAJ)

Ontario and london profiles courtesy dr m borrie

Ontario and London Profiles (courtesy Dr. M. Borrie)

Ontario (12,803,900 )



London (348,237) (LHIN 2)



  • Projected growth of 11.7%/yr yielding +300 new cases/yr

Prevalence of vad

Prevalence of VaD

  • Conservatively 1-4% of individuals 65 and older have VaD

  • Prevalence doubling every 5-10 years

  • In pathologically confirmed cases of dementia VaD is second only to AD and many cases have a mixed VaD/AD pathology (Kirshner, 2010)

  • Likely underestimated for a variety of reasons

    • Clear definition of the disorder

    • Overlap with CVD

    • Overlap with AD

Prevalence of vad1

Prevalence of VaD

  • Conservatively 1-4% of individuals 65 and older have VaD

  • Prevalence doubling every 5-10 years

  • In pathologically confirmed cases of dementia VaD is second only to AD and many cases have a mixed VaD/AD pathology (Kirshner, 2010)

  • Likely underestimated for a variety of reasons

    • Clear definition of the disorder

    • Overlap with CVD

    • Overlap with AD

Types of dementia selected examples

Types of Dementia: Selected Examples

  • DAT/AD

    • Familial-DAT

    • Early onset-DAT

    • Down’s syndrome-DAT

  • Mixed (DAT + VaD)

  • Vascular dementia (VaD)

  • Vascular cognitive impairment (VCI)

  • Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB)

  • FTLD (FLD [Fv plus sub-variants] + PNFA [Fv] + semantic dementia [Tv])

  • Dementia lacking distinctive histology (DLDH)

  • Binswanger disease

  • PPA

  • FTLD Pick Complex

  • Pick’s

  • Dementia with motor neurone diseases and movement disorders

    • ALS, Parkinson’s, MS, HC, etc.

    • Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and corticobasal degeneration (CBD)

  • AIDS dementia complex (ADC)

  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)

  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH)

  • Syphilis

  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome

Vascular cognitive impairment


  • Syndrome of acquired, progressive, persistent

    decline in 3 of 5 spheres of mental activity

    (Cummings, Benson, & LoVerme, 1980)

  •  1. Memory

  • 2. Language and communication

  • 3. Personality

  • 4. Visuospatial skills

  • 5. Cognition(e.g., reasoning, abstraction, judgement, etc.)

  • Mild cognitive impairment mci ritchie touchon 2000

    Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)(Ritchie & Touchon, 2000)

    Not considered normal for age and education level

    Defined clinically or neuropsychologically

    Evolved from earlier concepts of cognitive decline in aging without dementia:

    Benign senescent forgetfulness (Kral, 1962)

    Age-associated memory impairment (Crook et al., 1986)

    Age-associated cognitive decline (Levy et al., 1994)

    Mild cognitive decline (ICD-10, 1993)

    Cognitively impaired not demented (CSHA, 1994)

    Cognitively impaired not demented yet (CINDY) (CSHA, 1994)

    Mild cognitive impairment mci petersen et al 1999 mendez cummings 2003

    Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)(Petersen et al. 1999; Mendez & Cummings, 2003)

    Memory complaint, preferably corroborated by informant

    Objective memory impairment corrected for age and education (i.e., scores 1.5 SDs or more below Mean for normals)

    Largely intact general cognitive function

    Essentially preserved activities of daily living (ADL)

    Not demented

    No specific medical, neurological or psychiatric causes for memory difficulty

    Dementia dsm iv tr 2000

    Dementia: DSM IV-TR (2000)

    • Multiple cognitive deficits of gradual onset and continual decline including both:

      • Memory impairment

      • One (or more) of the following:

        • Language problems

        • Movement programming problems (apraxia)

        • Perceptions stripped of meaning (agnosia)

        • Disturbance in executive functioning (e.g., planning, organizing, sequencing ideas, etc.)

    • Cognitive deficits:

      • Cause significant impairment in social or occupational functioning

      • Represent significant decline from previous functioning

    • Not due to other CNS conditions, systemic conditions known to cause dementia, substance abuse induced dementia, delirium, another primary psychiatric disorder

    Defining vad an enigma

    Defining VaD (an enigma)

    DSM – IV – TR (2000)

    • Memory impairment

    • Impairment in one other cognitive domain (language or Visuospatial)

    • Presence of cerebrovascular disease (focal clinical signs or imaging)

    • Cognitive deficits must be related to CVD and severe enough to impair daily functional activities.

    Defining vci vad

    Defining VCI/VaD

    • Heterogenous

    • Onset of cognitve impairment dementia should have a temporal orientation to a CVD event

    • Severity depends on strategic location of infarcts and volume of injury (tissue damage)

      • Left caronaradiata (Pohlasvaara, et al)

      • Thalamus (RMDAS study)

    Post stroke cognitive impairment vakhnina et al 2009

    Post-stroke cognitive impairment (Vakhnina, et al 2009)

    • Incidence of impaired cognitive function post stroke in the elderly = 40-60% during first 6 months post TIA’s, strokes with minimal impairments, minor strokes

    • Severity reaches dementia criteria in 5-7% of cases in the first 6 months post and in 20-25% of cases within 5 years of the stroke (non-severe ischemic strokes)

    Vascular cognitive impairment

    • Stroke can lead to recurrence or clinical manifestation of underlying dementia or other neurodegenerative processes

    • The development of additional cerebrovascular disease in the presence of at least 2 lacunar infarcts significantly  probability of AD manifesting (Vakhnina, et al 2009)

    • Mild cognitive impairment (MCI or VaMCI is a major determinant of post-stroke dementia: 8% conversion per year from VaMCI to VaD (Sachdev, et al 2009)

    • Those with greater executive function and language impairment post stroke tended to progress to VaD. Behavioural findings were more predictive than imaging (Sachdev, et al 2009)

    Vascular cognitive impairment

    • Incidence of clinical stroke in US = 750,000/year

    • Incidence of silent infarctions est. at 22 million in 11 million persons

    • In the Rotterdam study, those with silent infarction had a two fold increased risk of dementia

    • Pathology studies – small infarctions give a 5 fold risk of developing dementia even after corrections for AD

    Risk factors for vci

    Risk Factors for VCI

    • Hypertension

    • Diabetes

    • Hyperlipidemia

    • Estrogen replacement therapy

    • TIA’s

    Vci vad variations libon et al

    VCI/VaD Variations (Libon, et al)

    • Extracranial

      • More abrupt in onset with stepwise progression of dementia; more characteristic of multi-infarct dementia

      • Usually more disruption of cortical involvment

      • Caused by blockage to one or more of the major cerebral arteries

    • Intracranial

      • Slow, insidious progression

      • Usually more subcortical in involvment

      • Affects more of the smaller vessel systems (leukoariosis)

    • Arteriopathies, leukoencephalopathy, amyloidangiopathy

      • Also give a predominant subcortical feel deficits

    Vad subtypes kirshner 2009

    VaD Subtypes (Kirshner, 2009)

    • Multiple large infarcts

      • Classic MID

      • Can occur in single or multiple strokes

      • Location and extend of damage dependent

      • Insidious dementia, usually clinically obv. stroke but may be silent

    • Lacunar state

      • Chronic HT patients

      • Small infarcts deep in the white matter, internal capsule, BG, brainstem

      • Increased reflexes, positive babinski, pseudobulbar affect, spastic tone, frontal release signs


      • Cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy

    • Binswanger’s disease

      • Subcorticalateriosclerotic encephalopathy in elderly patients with chronic HT and hx of acute strokes

      • CT/MRI extensive white matter disease or leukoaraiosis without obvious cortical infarcts

    • Misc. other vascular syndromes



    • Mental processes where sensory information is transformed, reduced, elaborated, stored, recovered and used

    • Processes of gaining knowledge, organizing information (new or old), and using what has been learned

    • Includes, but is not limited to:

      • Memory systems and processes

      • Attention systems and processes

      • Judgment

      • Reasoning - decision making

      • Insightfulness

      • Language systems

      • Other systems and processes



    • Mental processes where sensory information is transformed, reduced, elaborated, stored, recovered and used

    • Processes of gaining knowledge, organizing information (new or old), and using what has been learned

    • Includes, but is not limited to:

      • Memory systems and processes

      • Attention systems and processes

      • Judgment

      • Reasoning - decision making

      • Insightfulness

      • Other systems and processes

    Vascular cognitive impairment






















    Impact of Communication Problems on Burdens


    (Savundranayagam, Hummert, & Montgomery, 2005)

    Caregivers perspectives of language and communication in dementia

    Caregivers’ Perspectives of Language and Communication in Dementia

    • Caregivers identify problems early

    • Far reaching effects on their social and emotional well-being

    • Perceived to be a primary problem in caregiver coping and increased risk for institutionalization

    Cognitive profiles levy chelune 2007

    Cognitive Profiles (Levy & Chelune, 2007)

    • Executive Function/Attention

      • Typical tasks requiring simple attention and tracking fail to differentiate AD and VCI

      • However as task complexity increases requiring mental flexibility, set shifting, vigilance, sustained attention those with VCI performed significantly worse than AD

      • Multiple studies have reported that AD is superior to VCI/VaD on tasks of new concept formation, freedom from perseveration, initiation, planning, and self-regulation

      • Difficulty assessing the demands of a task, adjusting accordingly and then shifting to next task (Libon, et al)

      • Show greater decrements in task to task trials suggesting difficulty with set maintenance

      • Subcortical – frontal circuits

    Zhou and jia 2009

    Zhou and Jia (2009)

    • Compared VCI-nd with controls (N=160)

    • VIC-nd varied from controls on almost every task

      • Attention

      • Memory

      • EF

      • Processing speed

      • Visuospatial constructs

      • Most predictive:

        • ALVT (verbal immediate memory), category VF, WAIS-RC digit symbol recall, block design

    Vascular cognitive impairment

    • Memory

      • VCI/VaD has more intact delayed and immediate recall for verbal stimuli and story re-telling (recall) vs. AD

      • Even when recall deficits are present they have better cued and recognition recall. Not true in AD

      • Declarative memory more preserved than procedural. Opposite to AD

      • Difficulty learning new motor tasks. Less carryover between trials (thalamic – neostriatal – frontal circuits)

      • Generally greater breakdown in semantic memory/networks in AD than in VCI

      • VCI patients with rapid rates of forgetting (greater declarative memory deficits) are felt to have an overlap of AD/VCI = Mixed Dementia or AD alone

    Vascular cognitive impairment

    Non-verbal visuospatial memory

    • Facial recognition

    • Figural memory

    • No differences between AD and VaD

      Contructional praxis and visuomotor problem solving

    • No difference AD and VaD

    • Clock drawing impaired for both

    Verbal fluency

    Verbal Fluency

    • Mixed reports in the literature

    • Studies have reported no difference between VaD and AD in confrontation naming, phonemic fluency, or comprehension.

    • Recent studies using newer methodologies have shown definitive differences in behavioural and imaging results for phonemic fluency with VaD being significantly worse than controls and AD. Phonemic fluency is thought to reflect executive function deficits in addition to language deficits. (Poore, 2006)

    • AD tends to have more disruption of semantic knowledge will be more impaired on category fluency such as naming animals. VD outperforms AD here (Jones, Laukka, Backman, 2006)

    • In sum, category fluency is likely more discriminative than letter fluency. VaD will have category fluency deficits but not to the degree of phonemic fluency; may or may not be equal to AD in deficits

    Speech and language profile

    Speech and Language Profile

    • Powell et al. (1988)

      • VaD

        • Narrative writing, writing to dictation, completion of nursery rhymes, comprehension of complex auditory commands, and grammatical complexity of spontaneous speech

      • AD

        • Information content of spontaneous speech, naming, auditory comprehension, word discrimination, alphabet recitation and comprehension of written material

      • Speech melody and information content of spontaneous speech clearly separated the two groups

    Vascular cognitive impairment

    • VaD is superior to AD in comprehension of single words

    • AD is superior on simple measures of reading and writing

      Levy and Chelune (2007)

    Depression and psychomotor in vad

    Depression and Psychomotor in VaD

    • Psychomotor slowing is a definite characteristic of VaD

    • Depression

    • Reduced verbal output/engagement

    • Emotional withdrawal

    • Apathy

    • Somatic concerns

    • anxiety

    Slp assessment considerations

    SLP assessment considerations

    • Comprehensive

    • Cognitive communication measures

      • Arizona Battery of Communication Disorders of Dementia

      • Subtests of the PALPA

      • Cognitive Linguistic Quick Test

      • Phonemic/lexical fluency

      • Category fluency

      • Confrontation naming (BNT)

      • Discourse based assessment tasks (expression and comprehension

      • Semantic memory/knowledge – Pyramids and Palm Trees, PALPA subtests

      • Reading/Writing measures – BDAE subtests, PALPA subtests

      • Visual perceptual measures (clock drawing, figure drawing, etc.)

    Vascular cognitive impairment

    • Assessments designed to assess general aphasia severity or type of aphasia may not be useful (WAB or BDAE short form) alone. Deficits in VaD not likely to manifest on these types of tests.

    • Caregiver profile and perspective of communication through interview, profiles, scales

    • Tests of functional communication

      • Communication Abilities of Daily Living (CADL)

      • ASHA-FACS

      • Functional Communication Profile-R (FCP-R)

    Vascular cognitive impairment

    • May present with concomitant dysarthria or dysphagia

    • May present with concomitant focal more cortical language deficits if there was a large single/multi infarct(s)

    • Neuropsychiatry resources should be used as necessary for in-depth cognitive testing

    • Role of depression on communication should be considered given high rate of depression in both dementia and stroke

    • Early testing of cognitive domains and identifying presence of deficits may predict post-stroke VCI helping to better prepare patients and families

    Treatment considerations

    Treatment considerations

    • Given the elevated risk of VCI post stroke cognitive deficits should be probed for their contributions to deficits and appropriate treatment targets/prognosis

    • To date – no study has looked at influence of VCI on aphasia recovery

    • Generally deficits may require a more compensatory, supportive therapy approach that focuses on the individual with VCI and communication partners equally

    • Presence of post-stroke VCI may impact both immediately after the stroke and during chronic phases of treatment

    • May not be initially evident and only manifest during chronic stages therefore cognitive functions should be assessed/probed at every stage of intervention for communication deficits post-stroke

    Vascular cognitive impairment

    • VCI may have a significant impact on communication and on treatment outcomes

    • Generally word retrieval deficits will be more mediated by attention, executive function deficits vs. semantic knowledge.

    • Generally cued and recognition memory should be maximized as strategies

    • Reduce need for procedural learning

    • Using functional communication therapies such as narrative discourse based interventions may be valuable given executive function and cognitive deficits

    • Specific cognitive communication strategies should be developed with patients and communication partners.

    Medical management of vci

    Medical management of VCI

    • Primary intervention to reduce severity or slow progression is management of vascular risk factors particularly for those in at risk groups or those who have already had a stroke/TIA.

    • Traditional AD medications have been tried but without much success. Memantine may be one possible option

    Thank you

    Thank You

    The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind its faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.

Albert Einstein

    Dementia risk factors mendez cummings 2003

    Dementia – Risk Factors (Mendez & Cummings, 2003)

    Fairly Definitive

    • Age

    • Family history with 1st degree relative

    • Down’s syndrome

    • Frontal lobe signs

    • Presenilin mutations and abnormal APP

    • Apolipoprotein E 4 allele

    • Head trauma

    • Years of formal education

    • Small head size and brain volume


    • Inverse association with smoking

    • Alcohol and drug abuse

    • Exposure to metals such as aluminium, mercury, zinc

    • Industrial solvents and chemicals

    • Advanced maternal age

    • Electromagnetic fields

    • Family history of Down’s syndrome

    • Cerebro-and cardio-vascular diseases

    • Thyroid disease

    • Infectious diseases

    Summary of language and communication changes in mci

    Summary of Language and Communication Changes in MCI

    • Few studies

      • Mostly screening/brief measures within larger test batteries of cognition

    • Decreasing verbal fluency scores (letter and semantic categories)

    • Decreasing confrontation naming scores (Boston Naming Test – BNT)

    • Do not benefit from semantic cues

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