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MRI correlates of executive dysfunction in patients with ischaemic stroke


Timo Erkinjuntti MD, PhD, Memory Research Unit, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Helsinki University Central Hospital, PO BOX 300, FIN-00029 HUS, Finland (fax: +358 9 471 7 5447; e-mail:


Executive dysfunction (ED) may lead to problem behaviour and impaired activities of daily living in many neuropsychiatric disorders, but the neuroanatomical correlates of ED are still not well known. Different aspects of executive functions were studied by widely used neuropsychological tests in 214 elderly patients 3 months after ischaemic stroke, and a sum score of eight different measures was counted in each patient. The number and site of brain infarcts as well as severity and location of white matter lesions (WMLs) and brain atrophy on magnetic resonance imaging were recorded and compared between patients with and without ED. ED was present in 73 (34.1%) of the 214 patients. The mean frequency of brain infarcts in the brain and in the left hemisphere was higher in the patients with ED. Lesions affecting the frontal-subcortical circuits (e.g. pallidum, corona radiata or centrum semiovale) were more frequent in patients with ED than in those without. Also, patients with pontine brain infarcts frequently had ED, but this may have been due to more extensive ischaemic changes in these patients in general. Mean number of brain infarcts affecting the pons and posterior centrum semiovale on the left side, moderate to severe medial temporal atrophy, the Fazekas white matter score, the Mini-Mental State Examination score and low education were independent correlates of ED. Brain infarcts and WML affecting the frontal-subcortical circuits or the pons may increase risk for ED in stroke patients.