Cognitive function following stroke and vascular cognitive impairment

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Purpose of reviewThis review of the cognitive status following stroke and vascular cognitive impairment starts by questioning the concept of vascular dementia and related concepts. Our position is that in many cases these labels promote a superficial conceptualization of an inherently complex and heterogeneous phenomenon hampering a more detailed understanding.Recent findingsAfter stroke or disease of the cerebral vasculature, the cognitive and emotional outcome is dependent on a combination of three factors with the relative importance differing between causes. First, focal damage may lead to selective impairments that are dependent on the localization of the (grey matter) lesion. Second, diffuse neuronal dysfunction produces a more uniform profile of a decrease in mental speed, memory problems, and reduced executive functioning. Third, cognitive outcome is further modulated – notably in terms of severity – by patient variables such as age, sex, premorbid level of functioning, and comorbidity (e.g. hypertension).SummaryThe complex character of the cognitive repercussions of stroke can be better harnessed by employing modern neuropsychological assessment procedures. This allows both a detailed categorization of the patients for the selection and effectiveness of therapeutic intervention, as well as the construction of reliable prognostic models.

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