Inhibitory functioning in Alzheimer's disease

Hélène Amieva, Louise H Phillips, Sergio Della Sala, Julie D Henry

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review


We present a comprehensive review of studies assessing inhibitory functioning in Alzheimer's disease. The objectives of this review are: (i) to establish whether Alzheimer's disease affects all inhibitory mechanisms equally, and (ii) where possible, to assess whether any effects of Alzheimer's disease on inhibition tasks might be caused by other cognitive deficits, such as slowed processing. We review inhibitory mechanisms considered to play a crucial role in various domains of cognition, such as inhibition involved in working memory, selective attention and shifting abilities, and the inhibition of motor and verbal responses. It was found that whilst most inhibitory mechanisms are affected by the disorder, some are relatively preserved, suggesting that inhibitory deficits in Alzheimer's disease may not be the result of a general inhibitory breakdown. In particular, the experimental results reviewed showed that Alzheimer's disease has a strong effect on tasks requiring controlled inhibition processes, such as the Stroop task. However, the presence of the disease appears to have relatively little effect on tasks requiring more automatic inhibition, such as the inhibition of return task. Thus, the distinction between automatic, reflexive inhibitory mechanisms and controlled inhibitory mechanisms may be critical when predicting the integrity of inhibitory mechanisms in Alzheimer's disease. Substantial effects of Alzheimer's disease on tasks such as negative priming, which are not cognitively complex but do require some degree of controlled inhibition, support this hypothesis. A meta-analytic review of seven studies on the Stroop paradigm revealed substantially larger effects of Alzheimer's disease on the inhibition condition relative to the baseline condition, suggesting that these deficits do not simply reflect general slowing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)949-964
Number of pages16
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2004

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Inhibitory functioning in Alzheimer's disease'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this