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Neuropsychologia. 2014 Nov;64:271-81. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2014.09.041. Epub 2014 Oct 2.

Abstract and concrete categories? Evidences from neurodegenerative diseases.

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Laboratory of Neuropsychology, IRCCS Istituto Neurologico Carlo Besta, Milano, Italy. Electronic address:
Institute of Molecular Bioimaging and Physiology (IBFM)-CNR, Milano, Italy.
Division of Neuroscience, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milano, Italy.
Experimental Psychology Research Department, Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, University College London, London, England.
Division of Neuroscience, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milano, Italy; Institute for Advanced Study IUSS Pavia, Pavia, Italy.


We assessed the performance of patients with a diagnosis of Alzheimer׳s disease (AD) and of the semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia (sv-PPA) in a series of tasks involving both abstract and concrete stimuli, which were controlled for most of the variables that have been shown to affect performance on lexical-semantic tasks. Our aims were to compare the patients׳ performance on abstract and concrete stimuli and to assess category-effects within the abstract and concrete domains. The results showed: (i) a better performance on abstract than concrete concepts in sv-PPA patients. (ii) Category-related effects in the abstract domain, with emotion concepts being preserved in AD and social relations being selectively impaired in sv-PPA. In addition, a living-non living dissociation may be (infrequently) observed in individual AD patients after controlling for an extensive set of potential confounds. Thus, differences between and within the concrete or abstract domain may be present in patients with semantic memory disorders, mirroring the different brain regions involved by the different pathologies.


Abstract concepts; Alzheimer׳s disease; Concrete concepts; Emotion; Living-non living dissociation; Semantic memory; Semantic variant of the primary progressive aphasia; Social relation

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