Understanding the clinical phenotype of Posterior cortical atrophy
Studies suggest that variant clinical presentations of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are not so infrequent, representing a third of patients with early-onset AD, and at least 5% of late onset cases (Koedam et al. 2010). One such variant is posterior cortical atrophy (PCA), characterised by core visuospatial and visuoperceptual deficits not attributable to ocular disease.
Episodic memory is thought to be comparatively preserved. Neuroimaging reveals predominant atrophy in the parieto-occipital cortex, with relative sparing of the temporal regions (Kas et al. 2011). The majority of research on PCA has concentrated on defining the visuospatial deficits, with more recent research describing subtle language impairments (Crutch et al. 2013). Memory has been less systematically examined but where assessment has been included, memory has been reported to be below normal levels (McMonagle et al. 2006; Charles and Hillis 2005).
Our research aims The aims of our research are to improve the clinical understanding of Posterior Cortical Atrophy, to develop scientific knowledge about this complex condition, and to improve services and the care we can offer to our patients. We have three primary objectives: (1) To improve understanding of the symptoms of Posterior Cortical Atrophy: We use specialist cognitive tests to determine which brain functions are impaired and which are spared. We are also developing novel tests with improved sensitivity to Posterior Cortical Atrophy, which can be used in clinics to improve early diagnosis. With earlier diagnosis, patients can be offered treatment and support as soon as they need it. (2) To improve understanding of the causes of Posterior Cortical Atrophy: We are using state-of-the-art brain imaging to study the changes in the brain which lead to the patient’s symptoms. (3) To improve the care and management of people with Posterior Cortical Atrophy: We are talking with patients and their caregivers to investigate the most important needs of people living with Posterior Cortical Atrophy in their homes and communities. We are committed to improving quality of life through appropriately targeted medical and social care interventions.