The authors examined eight patients with dementia of the Alzheimer's type (DAT), five with prominent visual symptoms early in the illness (VS) and three with no visual symptoms (NVS). Results of neuro-ophthalmologic examinations on VS patients showed relatively consistent abnormalities in figure copying, color vision tested by isochromatic plates, and stereopsis. Cerebral glucose metabolism determined by 18F-fluoro-2-deoxyglucose positron emission tomography (PET) was unchanged in primary visual cortex of VS and NVS patients compared with 12 normal volunteers of similar age and sex. Glucose metabolism in VS patients was decreased by 45 and 34% in left and right visual association cortex (P < 0.01 and P < 0.05, respectively) and 34 and 37% in left and right inferior parietal cortex (P < 0.05) compared with controls; NVS patients had no significant metabolic alteration in these areas. Symptoms, physical examination, and metabolic imaging imply that these patients are a heterogenous but distinct clinical subgroup of DAT often with mild dementia who have visual symptoms due primarily to visual agnosia.
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