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Neurology. 2006 May 9;66(9):1405-13.

Trying to tell a tale: discourse impairments in progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia.

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Department of Neurology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, USA.



To assess discourse in patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD).


The authors asked patients with progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA), patients with semantic dementia (SemD), and nonaphasic patients with a disorder of social comportment and executive functioning (SOC/EXEC) to narrate the story of a wordless children's picture book.


The authors found significant discourse impairments in all three groups of patients. Moreover, there were qualitatively important differences between the groups. Patients with PNFA had the sparsest output, producing narratives with the fewest words per minute. Patients with SemD had difficulty retrieving words needed to tell their narratives. Though not aphasic, patients with SOC/EXEC had profound difficulty organizing their narratives, and they could not effectively express the point of the story. This deficit correlated with poor performance on a measure of executive resources requiring an organized mental search. In addition, a correlation of narrative organization with cortical atrophy in patients with SOC/EXEC was significant in right frontal and anterior temporal brain regions.


Impaired day-to-day communication in nonaphasic frontotemporal dementia patients with a disorder of social comportment and executive functioning is due in part to a striking deficit in discourse organization associated with right frontotemporal disease. Difficulty with discourse in progressive aphasia is due largely to the language impairments of these patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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