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Neuropsychologia. 2009 Oct;47(12):2634-41. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.05.013. Epub 2009 May 29.

Semantic memory in object use.

Author information

1
Memory Clinic, Centre for Medicine of the Ageing, Catholic University, Rome, Italy. silveri@rm.unicatt.it

Abstract

We studied five patients with semantic memory disorders, four with semantic dementia and one with herpes simplex virus encephalitis, to investigate the involvement of semantic conceptual knowledge in object use. Comparisons between patients who had semantic deficits of different severity, as well as the follow-up, showed that the ability to use objects was largely preserved when the deficit was mild but progressively decayed as the deficit became more severe. Naming was generally more impaired than object use. Production tasks (pantomime execution and actual object use) and comprehension tasks (pantomime recognition and action recognition) as well as functional knowledge about objects were impaired when the semantic deficit was severe. Semantic and unrelated errors were produced during object use, but actions were always fluent and patients performed normally on a novel tools task in which the semantic demand was minimal. Patients with severe semantic deficits scored borderline on ideational apraxia tasks. Our data indicate that functional semantic knowledge is crucial for using objects in a conventional way and suggest that non-semantic factors, mainly non-declarative components of memory, might compensate to some extent for semantic disorders and guarantee some residual ability to use very common objects independently of semantic knowledge.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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