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Brain. 2013 Feb;136(Pt 2):601-18. doi: 10.1093/brain/aws336. Epub 2013 Jan 29.

Words and objects at the tip of the left temporal lobe in primary progressive aphasia.

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1
Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Centre, Northwestern University, 320 East Superior Street Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL 60611, USA. mmesulam@northwestern.edu

Abstract

Eleven of 69 prospectively enrolled primary progressive aphasics were selected for this study because of peak atrophy sites located predominantly or exclusively within the anterior left temporal lobe. Cortical volumes in these areas were reduced to less than half of control values, whereas average volume elsewhere in the left hemisphere deviated from control values by only 8%. Failure to name objects emerged as the most consistent and severe deficit. Naming errors were attributed to pure retrieval failure if the object could not be named even when the denoting word was understood, the object recognized and the two accurately matched. Surprisingly many of the naming errors reflected pure retrieval failures, without discernible semantic or associative component. The remaining set of errors had associative components. These errors reflected the inability to define the word denoting the object more often than the inability to define the nature of the pictured object. In a separate task where the same object had to be linked to verbal or non-verbal associations, performance was abnormal only in the verbal format. Excessive taxonomic interference was observed for picture-word, but not picture-picture, matching tasks. This excessive interference reflected a blurring of intra- rather than inter-category distinctions as if the acuity of word-object associations had been diminished so that correspondences were easier to recognize at generic than specific levels. These dissociations between verbal and non-verbal markers of object knowledge indicate that the reduced neural mass at peak atrophy sites of the left temporal tip, accounting for half or more of the presumed premorbid volume, was unlikely to have contained domain-independent semantic representations of the type that would be expected in a strictly amodal hub. A more likely arrangement entails two highly interactive routes--a strongly left lateralized temporosylvian language network for verbal concepts, and a presumably more bilateral or right-sided inferotemporal/fusiform object recognition network, which remained relatively spared because peak atrophy sites were concentrated on the left. The current results also suggest that the left anterior temporal neocortex should be inserted into the language network where it is likely to play a major role in selecting verbal labels for objects and mediating the progression of word comprehension from generic to specific levels of precision.

PMID:
23361063
PMCID:
PMC3572925
DOI:
10.1093/brain/aws336
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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