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J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2000 Sep;6(6):693-703.

Conceptual apraxia and semantic memory deficit in Alzheimer's disease: two sides of the same coin?

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Centre de recherche de l'Institut Universitaire de Gériatrie de Montréal, Quebec, Canada.


This study was designed to examine the patterns of apraxic disturbances and the relationships between action knowledge and other measures of semantic knowledge about objects in 10 well-characterized Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients. Five tasks were used to assess components of action knowledge (action-tool relationships, pantomime recognition, and sequential organization of action) and praxis execution (actual use, pantomiming) according to the cognitive model of praxis. Three tasks (verbal comprehension, naming, and a visual semantic matching task) were used to assess verbal-visual semantics. Considering patterns of apraxia first, conceptual apraxia was found in 9 out of the 10 AD patients, suggesting that it is a common feature even in the early stages of AD. Second, we found partly parallel deficits in tests of action-semantic and verbal-visual semantic knowledge in 9 AD patients. Impaired action knowledge was found only in patients with a semantic language deficit. These findings provide no evidence that "action semantics" may be separated from other semantic information. Our results support the view of a unitary semantic system, given that the representations of action-semantic and other semantic knowledge of objects are often simultaneously disrupted in AD.

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