Lack of awareness of neuropsychological deficit in cerebral small vessel disease: The relationship with executive and episodic memory functions


Correspondence should be addressed to Rebecca Brookes, Stroke and Dementia Research Centre, St. George’s, University of London, Cranmer Terrace, London SW17 0RE, UK (e-mail: ).


A common cause of neuropsychological impairment in older adults is cerebral small vessel disease (SVD), but little is known as to whether lack of awareness of neuropsychological impairment is a feature of this clinical condition. In this study, we investigated awareness deficits in a well-phenotyped population of patients with SVD (n= 45; 21 with defined concomitant neuropsychological impairment) and made comparisons with 24 Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients and a further 80 control participants. Awareness of performance on a range of neuropsychological measures was examined based on the Brief Memory and Executive Test Battery (BMET) (Brookes, Hannesdottir, Lawrence, Morris, & Markus, 2012), exploring the relationship between awareness and memory and executive function. The results revealed significant awareness deficits in both the SVD and AD groups. When splitting the SVD group into those with or without concomitant neuropsychological impairment, only those with neuropsychological impairment showed reduced awareness. For the SVD group, executive function was significantly correlated with awareness but memory was not. By comparison, memory was significantly correlated with awareness in the AD group, with executive function showing a trend but remaining non-significant. The results show that lack of awareness of deficit is a clinical feature of SVD and indicate that there are distinct neuropsychological associations with awareness deficit for SVD and AD.