What are the clinical features or behaviors associated with cognitive disorders?


Case Study, Mohr

CHAPTER 31, Cognitive Disorders

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In completing the case study, students will be addressing the following learning objectives:

Identify clinical features or behaviors associated with cognitive disorders.

Compare possible etiologies of various cognitive disorders, especially Alzheimer’s disease.

1. Will Lunsford is a 78-year-old widower who lives with his daughter. Mr. Lunsford has been increasingly irritable and has lost many personal items during the past few weeks. Today, he returned from a trip around the neighborhood to say that he had lost his truck and could not remember where he parked it. The preceding week, Mr. Lunsford declared that the telephone was broken when he could not remember how to dial the number of his friend. He also asked his daughter when they would have breakfast one morning an hour after they had eaten breakfast. Mr. Lunsford’s daughter made an appointment for him to be seen by his doctor. The doctor diagnosed Mr. Lunsford with Alzheimer’s disease.

(Learning Objectives: 1, 2)

a. What are the clinical features or behaviors associated with cognitive disorders?

b. What possible etiologies can be applied to Mr. Lunsford’s new diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease?


Clinical Features and Etiologies of Cognitive Disorders: A Case Study on Alzheimer’s Disease


Cognitive disorders encompass a range of conditions that impair cognitive functions, including memory, language, problem-solving, and attention. Alzheimer’s disease, one of the most prevalent cognitive disorders, presents with specific clinical features and behaviors. This case study focuses on Mr. Will Lunsford, a 78-year-old widower diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and explores the associated clinical features and possible etiologies of this condition.

Clinical Features or Behaviors Associated with Cognitive Disorders

Cognitive disorders manifest through various clinical features and behaviors that significantly impact daily life. In Mr. Lunsford’s case, the following signs are evident:

Memory Loss: Mr. Lunsford experiences progressive memory impairment, particularly affecting recent events and familiar information (Memory, Forgetfulness, and Aging: What’s Normal and What’s Not?, n.d.). Losing personal items, forgetting the location of his parked truck, and being unable to recall phone numbers are indicative of this cognitive decline.

Language and Communication Problems: Individuals with cognitive disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, often face difficulties finding the right words, expressing themselves coherently, or understanding others. Mr. Lunsford’s struggle to dial a friend’s number and his confusion about breakfast timings illustrate these language-related challenges.

Disorientation: Cognitive disorders can lead to disorientation in time, place, and situation. Mr. Lunsford’s inability to recognize that breakfast had already been consumed, despite it being an hour past, reflects this disorientation.

Changes in Mood and Personality: Behavioral changes are common in cognitive disorders. Increased irritability, as seen in Mr. Lunsford, can result from frustration and the struggle to cope with memory loss and cognitive decline.

Possible Etiologies of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, has multifactorial etiologies involving genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. While the precise cause remains unclear, several factors contribute to the development of this disorder.

Genetic Predisposition: Certain genes, such as the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene, have been identified as potential risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease (Safieh et al., 2019). Variations in these genes can influence the accumulation of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain, which are hallmarks of the disease.

Age: Advanced age is a significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. The prevalence of the condition increases with age, and individuals over 65 years are more likely to develop this cognitive disorder.

Neurological and Cellular Changes: Alzheimer’s disease involves progressive neurodegeneration characterized by the accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain. Amyloid plaques, composed of beta-amyloid protein, and neurofibrillary tangles, formed by tau protein, disrupt the normal functioning of brain cells and impede communication between neurons.

Environmental Factors: Environmental factors, such as exposure to toxins and air pollution, may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease (Breijyeh & Karaman, 2020). Additionally, cardiovascular risk factors, including hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol, have been associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline.


Cognitive disorders, like Alzheimer’s disease, significantly impact individuals’ cognitive functions, memory, language, and overall well-being. Recognizing the clinical features and behaviors associated with cognitive disorders is crucial for early diagnosis and intervention. While the precise etiologies of Alzheimer’s disease remain complex and multifaceted, genetic predisposition, age, neurological changes, and environmental factors contribute to its development. Enhancing our understanding of these factors can aid in the development of targeted therapies and interventions to improve the quality of life for individuals affected by cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.


Breijyeh, Z., & Karaman, R. (2020). Comprehensive Review on Alzheimer’s Disease: Causes and Treatment. Molecules, 25(24), 5789. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules25245789 

Memory, Forgetfulness, and Aging: What’s Normal and What’s Not? (n.d.). National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/memory-forgetfulness-and-aging-whats-normal-and-whats-not 

Safieh, M., Korczyn, A. D., & Michaelson, D. M. (2019). ApoE4: an emerging therapeutic target for Alzheimer’s disease. BMC Medicine, 17(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-019-1299-4 

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