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Semin Speech Lang. 2008 Feb;29(1):32-43. doi: 10.1055/s-2008-1061623.

Effects of semantic impairment on language processing in semantic dementia.

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Departments of Neurology & Communicative Disorders, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610, USA.


Semantic dementia is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by progressive loss of conceptual and lexical knowledge. Cortical atrophy remains relatively isolated to anterior and inferior portions of the temporal lobe early in semantic dementia, later affecting more extensive regions of temporal cortex. Throughout much of the disease course, frontal and parietal lobe structures remain relatively intact. This distribution of cortical damage produces a unique language profile. Patients with semantic dementia typically experience profound deficits in language comprehension and production in the context of relatively well-preserved functioning in domains such as phonology, executive function, visuospatial processing, and speech perception. We discuss the effects of semantic impairment on language processing in semantic dementia within the context of an interactive theory of semantic cognition that assumes the active coordination of modality-neutral and modality-specific components. Finally, we argue the need for an etiology-specific language intervention for this population.

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