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July 7, 1975

The Presenile Dementias

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Neurology, College of Medicine, University of Vermont, Burlington.

JAMA. 1975;233(1):81-84. doi:10.1001/jama.1975.03260010083034

A PROGRESSION of peculiarities that may be as harmless as the faux pas of the absent-minded professor or as tragic as the deterioration of King Lear forms the spectrum of what in its fully developed form is called dementia. Simply defined, it is intellectual disintegration.

The manifestations of dementia vary considerably, reflecting the mental, social, and emotional resources of a person before his illness began. Unfortunately, it often strikes the individual at the height of his productivity. The first symptom of the condition may be a decrease in expected level of functioning, and thus the disease may be very closely tied to the patient's work or professional status. It is important to note that the symptoms that usher in the process of dementia differ little from those that occur in normal people who are exhausted, anxious, or under severe pressure. Thus, a frequent early complaint is that the patient is