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Post-stroke cognitive impairment on the Mini-Mental State Examination primarily relates to left middle cerebral artery infarcts.

BACKGROUND: Post-stroke cognitive impairment can occur after damage to various brain regions, and cognitive deficits depend on infarct location. The Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) is still widely used to assess post-stroke cognition, but it has been criticized for capturing only certain cognitive deficits. Along these lines, it might be hypothesized that cognitive deficits as measured with the MMSE primarily involve certain infarct locations.

AIMS: This comprehensive lesion-symptom mapping study aimed to determine which acute infarct locations are associated with post-stroke cognitive impairment on the MMSE.

METHODS: We examined associations between impairment on the MMSE (<5th percentile; normative data) and infarct location in 1198 patients (age 67 ± 12 years, 43% female) with acute ischemic stroke using voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping. As a frame of reference, infarct patterns associated with impairments in individual cognitive domains were determined, based on a more detailed neuropsychological assessment.

RESULTS: Impairment on the MMSE was present in 420 patients (35%). Large voxel clusters in the left middle cerebral artery territory and thalamus were significantly (p < 0.01) associated with cognitive impairment on the MMSE, with highest odds ratios (>15) in the thalamus and superior temporal gyrus. In comparison, domain-specific impairments were related to various infarct patterns across both hemispheres including the left medial temporal lobe (verbal memory) and right parietal lobe (visuospatial functioning).

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings indicate that post-stroke cognitive impairment on the MMSE primarily relates to infarct locations in the left middle cerebral artery territory. The MMSE is apparently less sensitive to cognitive deficits that specifically relate to other locations.

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