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Cortex. 2013 Apr;49(4):948-60. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2012.03.024. Epub 2012 Apr 16.

Selective impairment of action-verb naming and comprehension in progressive supranuclear palsy.

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Institute of Neurology, Catholic University, Rome, Italy.


Some previous studies in brain-damaged patients suggested that neural systems in the left temporal lobe might be crucial in the production and comprehension of nouns, while analogous systems in posterior frontal cortical areas might be involved in the production and comprehension of verbs. We assessed performance on neuropsychological tasks of production and comprehension of nouns and action-verbs in 10 patients with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and in 10 age-matched healthy controls. PSP patients also underwent measurements of regional cerebral blood flow by means of single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), using 99mTc-Ethyl Cysteinate Dimer. In all PSP patients, SPECT showed a significant hypoperfusion in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG). PSP patients performed significantly worse than controls on all lexical-semantic tasks, except for the auditory lexical decision task on nouns. Within PSP patients, however, a significantly lower performance was observed on action-verbs as compared to nouns on various lexical-semantic tasks (oral and written confrontation naming, auditory and visual single-word comprehension). Analysis of individual performance revealed heterogeneous patterns of neuropsychological impairment in different PSP patients. Despite some difficulty in drawing clear-cut conclusions about the locus of functional damage, we hypothesise that in most of our PSP patients such selective impairment in the production and in the comprehension of action-verbs could be due to semantic deficits affecting the conceptual category of actions. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that in PSP a dysfunction of neural systems in posterior frontal cortical areas (mainly involving the IFG) critical for processing the conceptual category of actions might result in a selective impairment of production and comprehension of action-verbs.

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