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Neuropsychologia. 2011 Nov;49(13):3532-41. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.09.005. Epub 2011 Sep 12.

Some is not enough: quantifier comprehension in corticobasal syndrome and behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia.

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1
Department of Neurology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4283, United States.

Abstract

Quantifiers are very common in everyday speech, but we know little about their cognitive basis or neural representation. The present study examined comprehension of three classes of quantifiers that depend on different cognitive components in patients with focal neurodegenerative diseases. Patients evaluated the truth-value of a sentence containing a quantifier relative to a picture illustrating a small number of familiar objects, and performance was related to MRI grey matter atrophy using voxel-based morphometry. We found that patients with corticobasal syndrome (CBS) and posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) are significantly impaired in their comprehension of cardinal quantifiers (e.g. "At least three birds are on the branch"), due in part to their deficit in quantity knowledge. MRI analyses related this deficit to temporal-parietal atrophy found in CBS/PCA. We also found that patients with behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) are significantly impaired in their comprehension of logical quantifiers (e.g. "Some of the birds are on the branch"), associated with a simple form of perceptual logic, and this correlated with their deficit on executive measures. This deficit was related to disease in rostral prefrontal cortex in bvFTD. These patients were also impaired in their comprehension of majority quantifiers (e.g. "At least half of the birds are on the branch"), and this too was correlated with their deficit on executive measures. This was related to disease in the basal ganglia interrupting a frontal-striatal loop critical for executive functioning. These findings suggest that a large-scale frontal-parietal neural network plays a crucial role in quantifier comprehension, and that comprehension of specific classes of quantifiers may be selectively impaired in patients with focal neurodegenerative conditions in these areas.

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