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1.  Dissociations Between Fluency And Agrammatism In Primary Progressive Aphasia 
Aphasiology  2012;26(1):20-43.
Classical aphasiology, based on the study of stroke sequelae, fuses speech fluency and grammatical ability. Nonfluent (Broca's) aphasia often is accompanied by agrammatism; whereas in the fluent aphasias grammatical deficits are not typical. The assumption that a similar relationship exists in primary progressive aphasia (PPA) has led to the dichotomization of this syndrome into fluent and nonfluent subtypes.
This study compared elements of fluency and grammatical production in the narrative speech of individuals with PPA to determine if they can be dissociated from one another.
Speech samples from 37 individuals with PPA, clinically assigned to agrammatic (N=11), logopenic (N=20) and semantic (N=6) subtypes, and 13 cognitively healthy control participants telling the “Cinderella Story” were analyzed for fluency (i.e., words per minute (WPM) and mean length of utterance in words (MLU-W)) and grammaticality (i.e., the proportion of grammatically correct sentences, open-to-closed-class word ratio, noun-to-verb ratio, and correct production of verb inflection, noun morphology, and verb argument structure.) Between group differences were analyzed for each variable. Correlational analyses examined the relation between WPM and each grammatical variable, and an off-line measure of sentence production.
Outcomes And Results
Agrammatic and logopenic groups both had lower scores on the fluency measures and produced significantly fewer grammatical sentences than did semantic and control groups. However, only the agrammatic group evinced significantly impaired production of verb inflection and verb argument structure. In addition, some semantic participants showed abnormal open-to-closed and noun-to-verb ratios in narrative speech. When the sample was divided on the basis of fluency, all the agrammatic participants fell in the nonfluent category. The logopenic participants varied in fluency but those with low fluency showed variable performance on measures of grammaticality. Correlational analyses and scatter plots comparing fluency and each grammatical variable revealed dissociations within PPA participants, with some nonfluent participants showing normal grammatical skill.
Grammatical production is a complex construct comprised of correct usage of several language components, each of which can be selectively affected by disease. This study demonstrates that individuals with PPA show dissociations between fluency and grammatical production in narrative speech. Grammatical ability, and its relationship to fluency, varies from individual to individual, and from one variant of PPA to another, and can even be found in individuals with semantic PPA in whom a fluent aphasia is usually thought to accompany preserved ability to produce grammatical utterances.
PMCID: PMC3244141  PMID: 22199417
2.  A Randomised, Blinded, Placebo-Controlled Trial in Dementia Patients Continuing or Stopping Neuroleptics (The DART-AD Trial)  
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(4):e76.
There have been increasing concerns regarding the safety and efficacy of neuroleptics in people with dementia, but there are very few long-term trials to inform clinical practice. The aim of this study was to determine the impact of long-term treatment with neuroleptic agents upon global cognitive decline and neuropsychiatric symptoms in patients with Alzheimer disease.
Methods and Findings
Design: Randomised, blinded, placebo-controlled parallel two-group treatment discontinuation trial.
Setting: Oxfordshire, Newcastle and Gateshead, London and Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
Participants: Patients currently prescribed the neuroleptics thioridazine, chlorpromazine, haloperidol trifluoperazine or risperidone for behavioural or psychiatric disturbance in dementia for at least 3 mo.
Interventions: Continue neuroleptic treatment for 12 mo or switch to an identical placebo.
Outcome measures: Primary outcome was total Severe Impairment Battery (SIB) score. Neuropsychiatric symptoms were evaluated with the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI).
Results: 165 patients were randomised (83 to continue treatment and 82 to placebo, i.e., discontinue treatment), of whom 128 (78%) commenced treatment (64 continue/64 placebo). Of those, 26 were lost to follow-up (13 per arm), resulting in 51 patients per arm analysed for the primary outcome. There was no significant difference between the continue treatment and placebo groups in the estimated mean change in SIB scores between baseline and 6 mo; estimated mean difference in deterioration (favouring placebo) −0.4 (95% confidence interval [CI] −6.4 to 5.5), adjusted for baseline value (p = 0.9). For neuropsychiatric symptoms, there was no significant difference between the continue treatment and placebo groups (n = 56 and 53, respectively) in the estimated mean change in NPI scores between baseline and 6 mo; estimated mean difference in deterioration (favouring continue treatment) −2.4 (95% CI −8.2 to 3.5), adjusted for baseline value (p = 0.4). Both results became more pronounced at 12 mo. There was some evidence to suggest that those patients with initial NPI ≥ 15 benefited on neuropsychiatric symptoms from continuing treatment.
For most patients with AD, withdrawal of neuroleptics had no overall detrimental effect on functional and cognitive status. Neuroleptics may have some value in the maintenance treatment of more severe neuropsychiatric symptoms, but this benefit must be weighed against the side effects of therapy.
Trial registration: Cochrane Central Registry of Controlled Trials/National Research Register (#ISRCTN33368770).
In a randomized trial of patients with dementia, Clive Ballard and colleagues show that withdrawal of neuroleptics had no overall detrimental effect, and by some measures improved, functional and cognitive status.
Editors' Summary
The number of people with dementia (currently 25 million worldwide) is expected to increase by 5 million each year. The risk of dementia, including Alzheimer disease, increases sharply with age: Alzheimer's Disease International estimates that 1.4% of people 65–69 have dementia, whereas almost a full quarter of those over the age of 85 years are affected. Almost all older dementia patients will experience, along with the cognitive and functional decline typical of the illness, some neuropsychiatric symptoms. These symptoms can include agitation, aggression, and psychosis, and are often devastating for the older patient and his or her family and caregiver. Managing these symptoms is often a prime concern for health-care providers and families. Neuroleptics (sometimes called antipsychotics) are the class of drugs often used to manage or control neuropsychiatric problems, but there have been questions about their safety and appropriateness. Safety concerns involve risk of stroke, parkinsonism, sedation, edema, and chest infections but also include a worsening of cognitive decline with prolonged use of neuroleptics.
Why Was the Study Done?
Previous studies on the effectiveness and safety of neuroleptics in older people have been short term. Ballard and colleagues wanted to study over a longer period of time the impact of neuroleptic drugs on elderly patients with dementia. Specifically, they wanted to know if being on a neuroleptic was associated with more cognitive decline than coming off the drug. They also wanted to investigate whether discontinuing the drug exacerbated any neuropsychiatric symptoms, Parkinson disease-like symptoms, or other functional, language, and cognition difficulties frequently associated with dementia.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited older patients with Alzheimer disease from across England who had been on neuroleptics for at least three months. They randomised patients to one of two groups: the first group continued taking the same neuroleptic at the same dosage level while the second group was switched to an identical-looking placebo. The researchers assessed the patients' cognitive status and neuropsychiatric symptoms upon their entry into the study. Six and 12 months later the researchers assessed any cognitive decline and the level of neuropsychiatric and other problems that patients were experiencing.
At both 6 and 12 months, the researchers found that there were no differences between the two groups (continued treatment and placebo) in terms of cognitive decline. The placebo group may have had less cognitive decline, but this was not statistically significant. They also found no overall differences between the two groups in the change in the number of neuropsychiatric symptoms over these time periods. Patients with severe neuropsychiatric problems at the outset of the trial did better on continued neuroleptic therapy, but this advantage was not statistically significant. There was a significant decline on the verbal fluency language tests among the patients who continued on their neuroleptic.
What Do these Findings Mean?
The researchers report perhaps the first trial of this duration on continued versus withdrawn neuroleptic treatment among older dementia patients. The findings do not indicate any benefit of continuing neuroleptic therapies in older patients on either cognitive or neuropsychiatric outcomes. The researchers conclude that neuroleptics, with their known safety issues, should not be used as first-line treatment to manage problems such as agitation or aggression. For older dementia patients whose neuropsychiatric symptoms are not remedied by nonpharmaceutical treatments, the researchers advise caution. More studies are urgently needed to find better solutions to help older patients with dementia who have agitation, aggression, and psychosis.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Alzheimer's Disease International is an umbrella organisation of organisations worldwide
The Alzheimer's Research Trust in the UK is a charity funding research to cure or prevent dementias
The US National Institutes of Aging has information on Alzheimer Disease in English and Spanish
Two governmental regulatory agencies—the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency in the UK and the Food and Drug Administration in the US—offer information about antipsychotics in people with dementia
PMCID: PMC2276521  PMID: 18384230
3.  Analysis of Verbal Fluency Ability in Amnestic and Non-Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment 
The purpose of this study was to investigate the pattern of performance on letter and category fluency tests of individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Previous research has suggested that organization strategies, including “clustering” (i.e., groups of related words) and “switching” (i.e., shift from one cluster to another), are important for efficient verbal fluency performance. Participants were 25 individuals with single-domain amnestic MCI (aMCI), 49 with multidomain aMCI, 16 with non-amnestic MCI (naMCI), and 90 cognitively healthy older adults. Fluency performances were analyzed across two 30-s intervals for total words produced, cluster size, and switching. Analyses of variance (ANOVAs) with follow-up tests revealed that the single-domain aMCI group performed comparably with healthy controls on each dependent measure across both fluency tasks. In contrast, the multidomain aMCI group showed performance decrements in total words and switching production compared with healthy controls on both fluency tasks, whereas the naMCI group produced fewer words and switches on letter fluency. Each group generated more words and switches during the first 30-s on both fluency tasks, with the exception of the naMCI group, whose switching on letter fluency did not decrease as the task progressed. As indicated by the single-domain aMCI group's unimpaired performance, our findings demonstrate that verbal fluency performance decreases as domains beyond memory become impaired in MCI. Reduced switching ability, which has been linked to prefrontal executive functioning, contributed the most to the poorer performance of individuals with multidomain MCI and naMCI.
PMCID: PMC3888195  PMID: 23917346
Mild cognitive impairment; Fluency; Language and language disorders; Executive functioning
4.  Computerized Cognitive Training in Cognitively Healthy Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Effect Modifiers 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(11):e1001756.
Michael Valenzuela and colleagues systematically review and meta-analyze the evidence that computerized cognitive training improves cognitive skills in older adults with normal cognition.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
New effective interventions to attenuate age-related cognitive decline are a global priority. Computerized cognitive training (CCT) is believed to be safe and can be inexpensive, but neither its efficacy in enhancing cognitive performance in healthy older adults nor the impact of design factors on such efficacy has been systematically analyzed. Our aim therefore was to quantitatively assess whether CCT programs can enhance cognition in healthy older adults, discriminate responsive from nonresponsive cognitive domains, and identify the most salient design factors.
Methods and Findings
We systematically searched Medline, Embase, and PsycINFO for relevant studies from the databases' inception to 9 July 2014. Eligible studies were randomized controlled trials investigating the effects of ≥4 h of CCT on performance in neuropsychological tests in older adults without dementia or other cognitive impairment. Fifty-two studies encompassing 4,885 participants were eligible. Intervention designs varied considerably, but after removal of one outlier, heterogeneity across studies was small (I2 = 29.92%). There was no systematic evidence of publication bias. The overall effect size (Hedges' g, random effects model) for CCT versus control was small and statistically significant, g = 0.22 (95% CI 0.15 to 0.29). Small to moderate effect sizes were found for nonverbal memory, g = 0.24 (95% CI 0.09 to 0.38); verbal memory, g = 0.08 (95% CI 0.01 to 0.15); working memory (WM), g = 0.22 (95% CI 0.09 to 0.35); processing speed, g = 0.31 (95% CI 0.11 to 0.50); and visuospatial skills, g = 0.30 (95% CI 0.07 to 0.54). No significant effects were found for executive functions and attention. Moderator analyses revealed that home-based administration was ineffective compared to group-based training, and that more than three training sessions per week was ineffective versus three or fewer. There was no evidence for the effectiveness of WM training, and only weak evidence for sessions less than 30 min. These results are limited to healthy older adults, and do not address the durability of training effects.
CCT is modestly effective at improving cognitive performance in healthy older adults, but efficacy varies across cognitive domains and is largely determined by design choices. Unsupervised at-home training and training more than three times per week are specifically ineffective. Further research is required to enhance efficacy of the intervention.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
As we get older, we notice many bodily changes. Our hair goes grey, we develop new aches and pains, and getting out of bed in the morning takes longer than it did when we were young. Our brain may also show signs of aging. It may take us longer to learn new information, we may lose our keys more frequently, and we may forget people's names. Cognitive decline—developing worsened thinking, language, memory, understanding, and judgment—can be a normal part of aging, but it can also be an early sign of dementia, a group of brain disorders characterized by a severe, irreversible decline in cognitive functions. We know that age-related physical decline can be attenuated by keeping physically active; similarly, engaging in activities that stimulate the brain throughout life is thought to enhance cognition in later life and reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline and dementia. Thus, having an active social life and doing challenging activities that stimulate both the brain and the body may help to stave off cognitive decline.
Why Was This Study Done?
“Brain training” may be another way of keeping mentally fit. The sale of computerized cognitive training (CCT) packages, which provide standardized, cognitively challenging tasks designed to “exercise” various cognitive functions, is a lucrative and expanding business. But does CCT work? Given the rising global incidence of dementia, effective interventions that attenuate age-related cognitive decline are urgently needed. However, the impact of CCT on cognitive performance in older adults is unclear, and little is known about what makes a good CCT package. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, the researchers assess whether CCT programs improve cognitive test performance in cognitively healthy older adults and identify the aspects of cognition (cognitive domains) that are responsive to CCT, and the CCT design features that are most important in improving cognitive performance. A systematic review uses pre-defined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic; meta-analysis uses statistical methods to combine the results of several studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 51 trials that investigated the effects of more than four hours of CCT on nearly 5,000 cognitively healthy older adults by measuring several cognitive functions before and after CCT. Meta-analysis of these studies indicated that the overall effect size for CCT (compared to control individuals who did not participate in CCT) was small but statistically significant. An effect size quantifies the difference between two groups; a statistically significant result is a result that is unlikely to have occurred by chance. So, the meta-analysis suggests that CCT slightly increased overall cognitive function. Notably, CCT also had small to moderate significant effects on individual cognitive functions. For example, some CCT slightly improved nonverbal memory (the ability to remember visual images) and working memory (the ability to remember recent events; short-term memory). However, CCT had no significant effect on executive functions (cognitive processes involved in planning and judgment) or attention (selective concentration on one aspect of the environment). The design of CCT used in the different studies varied considerably, and “moderator” analyses revealed that home-based CCT was not effective, whereas center-based CCT was effective, and that training sessions undertaken more than three times a week were not effective. There was also some weak evidence suggesting that CCT sessions lasting less than 30 minutes may be ineffective. Finally, there was no evidence for the effectiveness of working memory training by itself (for example, programs that ask individuals to recall series of letters).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that CCT produces small improvements in cognitive performance in cognitively healthy older adults but that the efficacy of CCT varies across cognitive domains and is largely determined by design aspects of CCT. The most important result was that “do-it-yourself” CCT at home did not produce improvements. Rather, the small improvements seen were in individuals supervised by a trainer in a center and undergoing sessions 1–3 times a week. Because only cognitively healthy older adults were enrolled in the studies considered in this systematic review and meta-analysis, these findings do not necessarily apply to cognitively impaired individuals. Moreover, because all the included studies measured cognitive function immediately after CCT, these findings provide no information about the durability of the effects of CCT or about how the effects of CCT on cognitive function translate into real-life outcomes for individuals such as independence and the long-term risk of dementia. The researchers call, therefore, for additional research into CCT, an intervention that might help to attenuate age-related cognitive decline and improve the quality of life for older individuals.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Druin Burch
The US National Institute on Aging provides information for patients and carers about age-related forgetfulness, about memory and cognitive health, and about dementia (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website also provides information about dementia and about memory loss
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources about memory, mild cognitive impairment, and dementia (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC4236015  PMID: 25405755
5.  The differing roles of the frontal cortex in fluency tests 
Brain  2012;135(7):2202-2214.
Fluency tasks have been widely used to tap the voluntary generation of responses. The anatomical correlates of fluency tasks and their sensitivity and specificity have been hotly debated. However, investigation of the cognitive processes involved in voluntary generation of responses and whether generation is supported by a common, general process (e.g. fluid intelligence) or specific cognitive processes underpinned by particular frontal regions has rarely been addressed. This study investigates a range of verbal and non-verbal fluency tasks in patients with unselected focal frontal (n = 47) and posterior (n = 20) lesions. Patients and controls (n = 35) matched for education, age and sex were administered fluency tasks including word (phonemic/semantic), design, gesture and ideational fluency as well as background cognitive tests. Lesions were analysed by standard anterior/posterior and left/right frontal subdivisions as well as a finer-grained frontal localization method. Thus, patients with right and left lateral lesions were compared to patients with superior medial lesions. The results show that all eight fluency tasks are sensitive to frontal lobe damage although only the phonemic word and design fluency tasks were specific to the frontal region. Superior medial patients were the only group to be impaired on all eight fluency tasks, relative to controls, consistent with an energization deficit. The most marked fluency deficits for lateral patients were along material specific lines (i.e. left—phonemic and right—design). Phonemic word fluency that requires greater selection was most severely impaired following left inferior frontal damage. Overall, our results support the notion that frontal functions comprise a set of specialized cognitive processes, supported by distinct frontal regions.
PMCID: PMC3381725  PMID: 22669082
fluency tests; selection; fluid intelligence; energization; frontal cortex
6.  On Which Abilities Are Category Fluency and Letter Fluency Grounded? A Confirmatory Factor Analysis of 53 Alzheimer's Dementia Patients 
In Alzheimer's dementia (AD), letter fluency is less impaired than category fluency. To check whether category fluency and letter fluency depend differently on semantics and attention, 53 mild AD patients were given animal and letter fluency tasks, two semantic tests (the Verbal Semantic Questionnaire and the BORB Association Match test), and two attentional tests (the Stroop Colour-Word Interference test and the Digit Cancellation test).
We conducted a LISREL confirmatory factor analysis to check the extent to which category fluency and letter fluency tasks were related to semantics and attention, viewed as latent variables.
Both types of fluency tasks were related to the latent variable Semantics but not to the latent variable Attention.
Our findings warn against interpreting the disproportionate impairment of AD patients on category and letter fluency as a contrast between semantics and attention.
PMCID: PMC3711000  PMID: 23885263
Language; Dementia; Verbal fluency; Semantics; Attention
7.  Non-Fluent Speech in Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration 
Journal of neurolinguistics  2009;22(4):370-383.
We investigated the cognitive and neural bases of impaired speech fluency, a central feature of primary progressive aphasia. Speech fluency was assessed in 35 patients with frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) who presented with progressive non-fluent aphasia (PNFA, n=11), semantic dementia (SemD, n=12), or a social and executive disorder without aphasia (SOC/EXEC, n=12). Fluency was quantified as the number of words per minute in an extended, semi-structured speech sample. This was related to language characteristics of the speech sample and to neuropsychological measures. PNFA patients were significantly less fluent than controls and other FTLD patients. Fluency correlated with grammatical expression but not with speech errors or executive difficulty. SemD and SOC/EXEC patients were also less fluent than controls. In SemD, fluency was associated with semantically limited content. In SOC/EXEC, fluency was associated with executive limitations. Voxel-based morphometry analyses of high-resolution MRI related fluency to gray matter volume in left inferior frontal, insula, and superior temporal regions for the entire cohort of FTLD patients. This region overlapped partially distinct atrophic areas in each FTLD subgroup. It thus appears to play a crucial role in speech fluency, which can be interrupted in different ways in different FTLD subgroups.
PMCID: PMC3238501  PMID: 22180700
frontotemporal dementia; progressive aphasia; MRI; speech fluency
8.  Initial letter and semantic category fluency in Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, and progressive supranuclear palsy. 
Ten patients with dementia of Alzheimer's type, 10 patients with progressive supranuclear palsy, and 10 patients with Huntington's disease were compared on two types of verbal fluency task--namely, initial letter fluency and category (semantic) fluency. The groups were carefully matched for overall level of dementia on the dementia rating scale, and were compared with 25 age matched normal controls. The controls found letter fluency more difficult than category fluency, and this relative pattern of performance was repeated in the progressive supranuclear palsy and Huntington's disease groups, although both groups were significantly impaired on both tasks. By contrast, patients with Alzheimer's disease performed just as poorly as the progressive supranuclear palsy and Huntington's disease groups on the category tasks, but were significantly less impaired at letter fluency, performing at near normal levels on this task. From these results, it is suggested that the performances of patients with progressive supranuclear palsy and Huntington's disease relate largely to initiation and retrieval problems secondary to disruption of frontostriatal circuits, whereas in Alzheimer's disease, the poorer performance on category fluency is due principally to the breakdown of semantic knowledge, which probably reflects temporal neocortical involvement.
PMCID: PMC1073192  PMID: 7964817
9.  The Diagnostic Value of Controlled Oral Word Association Test-FAS and Category Fluency in Single-Domain Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment 
Recent studies have shown that decreases in both letter fluency and category fluency may be present in addition to memory impairment in single-domain amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI). However, the clinical utility of these fluency measures is unclear. The aim of this study was to determine what, if any, diagnostic value letter and category fluency provide in differentiating single-domain aMCI from normal cognition.
Data from 66 individuals [33 cognitively normal (CN) and 33 aMCI] between the ages of 66 and 87 years participating in the Florida Alzheimer's Disease Research Center were compared on the Controlled Oral Word Association Test (COWAT)-FAS and Category Fluency test, both in terms of raw and scaled scores.
Participants were matched on age, education and sex. Two-tailed independent sample t-tests found statistically significant differences between the CN and aMCI groups for both raw and scaled scores of COWAT-FAS and Category Fluency (p < 0.001). Logistic regression analyses found that COWAT-FAS and Category Fluency did not significantly improve diagnostic accuracy when combined with the Hopkins Verbal Learning Test-Revised delayed recall.
Although decreased COWAT-FAS and Category Fluency performance may be present in single-domain aMCI, these tests do not improve the ability of the Hopkins Verbal Learning Test-Revised delayed recall to differentiate aMCI from CN individuals.
PMCID: PMC3250647  PMID: 22156335
Prodromal Alzheimer's disease; Alzheimer's disease; Dementia; Neuropsychology; Mild cognitive impairment; Verbal fluency
10.  Verbal Fluency Performance in Amnestic MCI and Older Adults with Cognitive Complaints 
Verbal fluency tests are employed regularly during neuropsychological assessments of older adults, and deficits are a common finding in patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Little extant research, however, has investigated verbal fluency ability and subtypes in preclinical stages of neurodegenerative disease. We examined verbal fluency performance in 107 older adults with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI, n = 37), cognitive complaints (CC, n = 37) despite intact neuropsychological functioning, and demographically-matched healthy controls (HC, n = 33). Participants completed fluency tasks with letter, semantic category, and semantic switching constraints. Both phonemic and semantic fluency were statistically (but not clinically) reduced in amnestic MCI relative to cognitively intact older adults, indicating subtle changes in both the quality of the semantic store and retrieval slowing. Investigation of the underlying constructs of verbal fluency yielded two factors: Switching (including switching and shifting tasks) and Production (including letter, category, and action naming tasks), and both factors discriminated MCI from HC albeit to different degrees. Correlational findings further suggested that all fluency tasks involved executive control to some degree, while those with an added executive component (i.e., switching and shifting) were less dependent on semantic knowledge. Overall, our findings highlight the importance of including multiple verbal fluency tests in assessment batteries targeting preclinical dementia populations and suggest that individual fluency tasks may tap specific cognitive processes.
PMCID: PMC2743541  PMID: 18339515
Mild cognitive Impairment; Verbal Fluency; Assessment; Cognition
11.  The Use of Profanity During Letter Fluency Tasks in Frontotemporal Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease 
To assess whether the production of profanity during letter fluency testing distinguishes frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients.
Alterations in language and social behavior typify FTD spectrum disorders. Nonetheless, in can be difficult to distinguish pathologically-defined frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) from AD clinically. Assessing verbal fluency by having patients generate as many words as they can beginning with specific letters in a given period of time can yield diverse information of diagnostic utility.
Words produced during FAS letter fluency testing were reviewed and instances of the use of "f*ck", "*ss", and "sh*t" and other words felt to be inappropriate were sought. The frequency of these words was compared between clinically diagnosed FTD and AD patients using chi-square tests.
We found that 6/32 (18.8%) patients with FTD generated the word "f*ck" during the "F" trial as opposed to none of 38 patients with AD (p = 0.007). Patients who said "f*ck" had diagnoses of either behavioral variant FTD (3/15), progressive non-fluent aphasia (2/8), or semantic dementia (1/3).
Though the specific neuropathology in these cases is uncertain, generation of "f*ck" during letter fluency testing appears to have utility in differentiating FTD from AD.
PMCID: PMC3594691  PMID: 20829665
Profanity; Alzheimer's disease; frontotemporal dementia; letter fluency; expletives
12.  Neurocognitive contributions to verbal fluency deficits in frontotemporal lobar degeneration 
Neurology  2009;73(7):535-542.
To test the hypothesis that different neurocognitive networks underlie verbal fluency deficits in frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD).
Letter (“FAS”) and semantic (“animal”) fluency tests were administered to patients with a behavioral/dysexecutive disorder (bvFTLD; n = 71), semantic dementia (SemD; n = 21), and progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA; n = 26). Tests measuring working memory, naming/lexical retrieval, and semantic knowledge were also obtained. MRI voxel-based morphometry (VBM) studies were obtained on a subset of these patients (bvFTLD, n = 51; PNFA, n = 11; SemD, n = 10).
Patients with SemD were disproportionately impaired on the semantic fluency measure. Reduced output on this test was correlated with impaired performance on naming/lexical retrieval tests. VBM analyses related reduced letter and semantic fluency to anterior and inferior left temporal lobe atrophy. Patients with bvFTLD were equally impaired on both fluency tests. Poor performance on both fluency tests was correlated with low scores on working memory and naming/lexical retrieval measures. In this group, MRI-VBM analyses related letter fluency to bilateral frontal atrophy and semantic fluency to left frontal/temporal atrophy. Patients with PNFA were also equally impaired on fluency tests. Reduced semantic fluency output was correlated with reduced performance on naming/lexical retrieval tests. MRI-VBM analyses related semantic fluency to the right frontal lobe and letter fluency to left temporal atrophy.
Distinct neurocognitive networks underlie impaired performance on letter and semantic fluency tests in frontotemporal lobar degeneration subgroups.
= Alzheimer disease;
= analysis of variance;
= behavioral/dysexecutive subgroup;
= frontotemporal lobar degeneration;
= Mini-Mental State Examination;
= Montreal Neurological Institute;
= magnetic resonance;
= progressive nonfluent aphasia;
= semantic dementia;
= echo time;
= repetition time;
= voxel-based morphometry.
PMCID: PMC2730797  PMID: 19687454
13.  Association between functional performance and executive cognitive functions in an elderly population including patients with low ankle–brachial index 
Peripheral arterial disease, as measured by the ankle–brachial index (ABI), is prevalent among the elderly, and is associated with functional performance, assessed by the 6-minute walk test (6MWT). Executive cognitive function (ECF) impairments are also prevalent in this population, but no existing study has investigated the association between ECF and functional performance in an elderly population including individuals with low ABI.
To investigate the association between functional performance, as measured by the 6MWT, and loss in ECF, in an elderly sample including individuals with low ABI.
The ABI group was formed by 26 elderly individuals with low ABI (mean ABI: 0.63±0.19), and the control group was formed by 40 elderly individuals with normal ABI (mean ABI: 1.08±0.07). We analyzed functional performance using the 6MWT, global cognition using the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), and ECF using the Digit Span for assessing attention span and working memory, the Stroop Color Word Test (SCWT) for assessing information processing speed and inhibitory control/impulsivity, and the Controlled Oral Word Association Test (COWAT) for assessing semantic verbal fluency and phonemic verbal fluency. We also used a factor analysis on all of the ECF tests (global ECF).
Before adjustment, the ABI group performed worse on global cognition, attention span, working memory, inhibitory control/impulsivity, semantic verbal fluency, and phonemic verbal fluency. After adjustment, the ABI group performance remained worse for working memory and semantic verbal fluency. In a simple correlation analysis including all of the subjects, the 6MWT was associated with global cognition, attention span, working memory, information processing speed, inhibitory control/impulsivity, semantic verbal fluency, and global ECF. After adjustment, all the associations remained statistically significant.
This study found an independent association between functional performance and ECF in an elderly population including low ABI individuals, showing that, in elderly populations with functional impairment, ECF may also be impaired.
PMCID: PMC4427597  PMID: 26005338
cognition; vascular disease; 6-minute walk test
14.  Category and letter verbal fluency across the adult lifespan: relationship to EEG theta power 
The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of age, sex, and education on category and letter verbal fluency task performance. A secondary goal was to examine whether resting EEG theta power in bilateral frontal and temporal lobes impacts age-associated decline in verbal fluency task performance. A large sample (N=471) of healthy, normal participants, age 21–82, was assessed for letter fluency (i.e., FAS), and for category fluency (i.e., Animal Naming), and with a 32-channel EEG system for ‘eyes-open’ resting theta power. The effects of age, sex, and education were examined using analyses of variance. Correlation analyses were used to test the impact of theta power on age and fluency performance by controlling for the effects of theta when examining the relationship between the other two variables. The results indicated that performance on both fluency tests declined linearly with age, but that the rate of decline was greater for category fluency. These age changes were not associated with education level, and there were no sex differences. While theta power was negatively associated with age and positively associated with Animal Naming performance, it did not moderate the relationship between the two. The differential age-associated decline between category and letter fluency suggests separate neurobiological substrates underlying the two domains of performance, which is not related to theta activity.
PMCID: PMC2758771  PMID: 15939182
Normal aging; Category fluency; Letter fluency; EEG; Theta
15.  Web-enabled Conversational Interactions as a Means to Improve Cognitive Functions: Results of a 6-Week Randomized Controlled Trial 
Increasing social interaction could be a promising intervention for improving cognitive function. We examined the feasibility of a randomized controlled trial to assess whether conversation-based cognitive stimulation, through personal computers, webcams, and a user-friendly interactive Internet interface had high adherence and a positive effect on cognitive functions among older adults without dementia.
Daily 30 minute face-to-face communications were conducted over a 6-week trial period in the intervention group. The control group had only a weekly telephone interview. Cognitive status of normal and MCI subjects was operationally defined as Global Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) = 0 and 0.5, respectively. Age, sex, education, Mini-Mental State Exam and CDR score were balancing factors in randomization. Subjects were recruited using mass-mailing invitations. Pre-post differences in cognitive test scores and loneliness scores were compared between control and intervention groups using linear regression models.
Eighty-three subjects participated (intervention: n=41, control: n=42). Their mean (std) age was 80.5 (6.8) years. Adherence to the protocol was high; there was no dropout and mean % of days completed out of the targeted trial days among the intervention group was 89% (range: 77%–100%). Among the cognitively intact participants, the intervention group improved more than the control group on a semantic fluency test (p=0.003) at the post-trial assessment and a phonemic fluency test (p=0.004) at the 18th week assessments. Among those with MCI, a trend (p=0.04) of improved psychomotor speed was observed in the intervention group.
Daily conversations via user-friendly Internet communication programs demonstrated high adherence. Among cognitively intact, the intervention group showed greater improvement in tests of language-based executive functions. Increasing daily social contacts through communication technologies could offer cost-effective home-based preventions. Further studies with a longer duration of follow-up are required to examine whether the intervention slows cognitive declines and delays the onset of dementia.
PMCID: PMC4507295  PMID: 26203461
Social Engagement; Conversational Interaction; Internet; Communication Technology; Oregon Center for Aging and Technology (ORCATECH); Randomized controlled clinical trial (RCT); prevention study; Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)
16.  Language in Alzheimer's Disease 
The Journal of clinical psychiatry  2008;69(8):1223-1227.
To ascertain the clinical utility of language examination by psychiatrists in evaluating Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients.
Data collected between 1986 and 2003 from a standardized psychiatric examination and neuropsychological testing of probable AD patients (diagnosed according to the criteria of the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke and the Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Association) were gathered from the database of the University of Texas Southwestern Alzheimer's Disease Center, Dallas. The variables studied were articulation, word-finding ability, hypofluency, hyperfluency, repetition, confrontational naming, and semantic (category) fluency Articulation, word-finding ability, hypofluency, hyperfluency, repetition, and confrontational naming were rated as normal or abnormal. Semantic fluency was scored numerically as the number of animals named in a minute. Cognitive impairment was assessed with the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and global impairment by the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) scale.
There was a significant association (p < .0001) between MMSE and CDR scores for all language measures except hyperfluency. The MMSE scores were higher in the group with responses rated as normal compared to those with abnormal responses. Patients with greater cognitive and global impairment named fewer animals in a minute.
Abnormal articulation and repetition of words were unusual and therefore would not be useful for early detection, but when present, were associated with more advanced disease. Impairment in fluency, animal naming, and confrontational naming were common and increased in frequency with greater cognitive and global impairment. Because animal naming is a numerical measure, changes in the number of animals named in a minute can be used to monitor disease progression.
PMCID: PMC3177322  PMID: 18505305
17.  Automated Semantic Indices Related to Cognitive Function and Rate of Cognitive Decline 
Neuropsychologia  2012;50(9):2165-2175.
The objective of our study is to introduce a fully automated, computational linguistic technique to quantify semantic relations between words generated on a standard semantic verbal fluency test and to determine its cognitive and clinical correlates. Cognitive differences between patients with Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment are evident in their performance on the semantic verbal fluency test. In addition to the semantic verbal fluency test score, several other performance characteristics sensitive to disease status and predictive of future cognitive decline have been defined in terms of words generated from semantically related categories (clustering) and shifting between categories (switching). However, the traditional assessment of clustering and switching has been performed manually in a qualitative fashion resulting in subjective scoring with limited reproducibility and scalability. Our approach uses word definitions and hierarchical relations between the words in WordNet®, a large electronic lexical database, to quantify the degree of semantic similarity and relatedness between words. We investigated the novel semantic fluency indices of mean cumulative similarity and relatedness between all pairs of words regardless of their order, and mean sequential similarity and relatedness between pairs of adjacent words in a sample of patients with clinically diagnosed probable (n=55) or possible (n=27) Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment (n=31). The semantic fluency indices differed significantly between the diagnostic groups, and were strongly associated with neuropsychological tests of executive function, as well as the rate of global cognitive decline. Our results suggest that word meanings and relations between words shared across individuals and computationally modeled via WordNet and large text corpora provide the necessary context to account for the variability in language-based behavior and relate it to cognitive dysfunction observed in mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3404821  PMID: 22659109
semantic verbal fluency; Alzheimer’s disease; mild cognitive impairment; semantic similarity; semantic relatedness; computational semantics
18.  Graph analysis of verbal fluency test discriminate between patients with Alzheimer's disease, mild cognitive impairment and normal elderly controls 
Verbal fluency is the ability to produce a satisfying sequence of spoken words during a given time interval. The core of verbal fluency lies in the capacity to manage the executive aspects of language. The standard scores of the semantic verbal fluency test are broadly used in the neuropsychological assessment of the elderly, and different analytical methods are likely to extract even more information from the data generated in this test. Graph theory, a mathematical approach to analyze relations between items, represents a promising tool to understand a variety of neuropsychological states. This study reports a graph analysis of data generated by the semantic verbal fluency test by cognitively healthy elderly (NC), patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment—subtypes amnestic (aMCI) and amnestic multiple domain (a+mdMCI)—and patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD). Sequences of words were represented as a speech graph in which every word corresponded to a node and temporal links between words were represented by directed edges. To characterize the structure of the data we calculated 13 speech graph attributes (SGA). The individuals were compared when divided in three (NC—MCI—AD) and four (NC—aMCI—a+mdMCI—AD) groups. When the three groups were compared, significant differences were found in the standard measure of correct words produced, and three SGA: diameter, average shortest path, and network density. SGA sorted the elderly groups with good specificity and sensitivity. When the four groups were compared, the groups differed significantly in network density, except between the two MCI subtypes and NC and aMCI. The diameter of the network and the average shortest path were significantly different between the NC and AD, and between aMCI and AD. SGA sorted the elderly in their groups with good specificity and sensitivity, performing better than the standard score of the task. These findings provide support for a new methodological frame to assess the strength of semantic memory through the verbal fluency task, with potential to amplify the predictive power of this test. Graph analysis is likely to become clinically relevant in neurology and psychiatry, and may be particularly useful for the differential diagnosis of the elderly.
PMCID: PMC4114204  PMID: 25120480
semantic verbal fluency; graph analysis; elderly; Alzheimer's disease; mild cognitive impairment
19.  Metal protein attenuating compounds for the treatment of Alzheimer’s dementia 
Alzheimer’s dementia (AD) may be caused by the formation of extracellular senile plaques comprised of beta-amyloid (Aß). In vitro and mouse model studies have demonstrated that metal protein attenuating compounds (MPACs) promote the solubilisation and clearance of Aß.
To evaluate the efficacy of metal protein attenuating compounds (MPACs) for the treatment of cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s dementia.
Search methods
We searched ALOIS, the Cochrane Dementia and Cognitive Improvement Group Specialized Register, on 29 July 2010 using the terms: Clioquinol OR PBT1 OR PBT2 OR “metal protein” OR MPACS OR MPAC.
Selection criteria
Randomised double-blind trials in which treatment with an MPAC was administered to participants with Alzheimer’s dementia in a parallel group comparison with placebo were included.
Data collection and analysis
Three review authors (RM, LJ, ELS) independently assessed the quality of trials according to the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions.
The primary outcome measure of interest was cognitive function (as measured by psychometric tests). The secondary outcome measures of interest were in the following areas: quality of life, functional performance, effect on carer, biomarkers, safety and adverse effects, and death.
Main results
Two MPAC trials were identified. One trial compared clioquinol (PBT1) with placebo in 36 patients and 32 had sufficient data for per protocol analysis. There was no statistically significant difference in cognition (as measured on the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale - Cognition (ADAS-Cog)) between the active treatment and placebo groups at 36 weeks. The difference in mean change from baseline ADAS-Cog score in the clioquinol arm compared with the placebo arm at weeks 24 and 36 was a difference of 7.37 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.51 to 13.24) and 6.36 (95% CI −0.50 to 13.23), respectively. There was no significant impact on non-cognitive symptoms or clinical global impression. One participant in the active treatment group developed neurological symptoms (impaired visual acuity and colour vision) which resolved on cessation of treatment and were possibly attributable to the drug.
In the second trial a successor compound, PBT2, was compared with placebo in 78 participants with mild Alzheimer’s dementia; all were included in the intention-to-treat analysis. There was no significant difference in the Neuropsychological Test Battery (NTB) composite, memory or executive scores between placebo and PBT2 in the least squares mean change from baseline at week 12. However, two executive function component tests of the NTB showed significant improvement over placebo in the PBT2 250 mg group from baseline to week 12: category fluency test (2.8 words, 95% CI 0.1 to 5.4; P = 0.041) and trail making part B (−48.0 s, 95% CI −83.0 to −13.0; P = 0.009). In the executive factor Z score, the difference in least squares mean change from baseline at week 12 for PBT2 250 mg compared with placebo was 0·27 (0·01 to 0·53; p=0·042). There was no significant effect on cognition on Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) or ADAS-Cog scales. PBT2 had a favourable safety profile.
Authors’ conclusions
There is an absence of evidence as to whether clioquinol (PBT1) has any positive clinical benefit for patients with AD, or whether the drug is safe. We have some concerns about the quality of the study methodology; there was an imbalance in treatment and control groups after randomisation (participants in the active treatment group had a higher mean pre-morbid IQ) and the secondary analyses of results stratified by baseline dementia severity. The planned phase III trial of PBT1 has been abandoned and this compound has been withdrawn from development. The second trial of PBT2 was more rigorously conducted and showed that after 12 weeks this compound appeared to be safe and well tolerated in people with mild Alzheimer’s dementia. Larger trials are now required to demonstrate cognitive efficacy.
PMCID: PMC4165331  PMID: 22592705
Alzheimer Disease [*drug therapy]; Chelating Agents [adverse effects; *therapeutic use]; Clioquinol [adverse effects; *analogs & derivatives; *therapeutic use]; Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic; Aged; Humans
20.  Verbal Fluency Performance in Patients with Non-demented Parkinson's Disease 
Iranian Journal of Psychiatry  2013;8(1):55-58.
While Parkinson's disease (PD) has traditionally been defined by motor symptoms, many researches have indicated that mild cognitive impairment is common in non-demented PD patients. The purpose of this study was to compare verbal fluency performance in non-demented Parkinson's disease patients with healthy controls.
In this cross-sectional study thirty non-demented Parkinson's disease patients and 30 healthy controls, matched by age, gender and education, were compared on verbal fluency performance. Verbal fluency was studied with a Phonemic Fluency task using the letters F, A, and S, a semantic fluency task using the categories animals and fruits. The independent t-test was used for data analysis.
Overall, participants generated more words in the semantic fluency task than in the phonemic fluency task. Results revealed significant differences between patients and controls in semantic fluency task (p<.05). In addition, PD patients showed a significant reduction of correctly generated words in letter fluency task. The total number of words produced was also significantly lower in the PD group (p<.05).
Verbal fluency disruption is implied in non-demented PD patients in association with incipient cognitive impairment.
PMCID: PMC3655231  PMID: 23682253
Verbal Fluency; Semantic fluency; Phonemic Fluency; Parkinson's diseas
21.  Effects of Growth Hormone–Releasing Hormone on Cognitive Function in Adults With Mild Cognitive Impairment and Healthy Older Adults 
Archives of neurology  2012;69(11):1420-1429.
Growth hormone–releasing hormone (GHRH), growth hormone, and insulinlike growth factor 1 have potent effects on brain function, their levels decrease with advancing age, and they likely play a role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer disease. Previously, we reported favorable cognitive effects of short-term GHRH administration in healthy older adults and provided preliminary evidence to suggest a similar benefit in adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
To examine the effects of GHRH on cognitive function in healthy older adults and in adults with MCI.
Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
Clinical Research Center, University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.
A total of 152 adults (66 with MCI) ranging in age from 55 to 87 years (mean age, 68 years); 137 adults (76 healthy participants and 61 participants with MCI) successfully completed the study.
Participants self-administered daily subcutaneous injections of tesamorelin (Theratechnologies Inc), a stabilized analog of human GHRH (1 mg/d), or placebo 30 minutes before bedtime for 20 weeks. At baseline, at weeks 10 and 20 of treatment, and after a 10-week washout (week 30), blood samples were collected, and parallel versions of a cognitive battery were administered. Before and after the 20-week intervention, participants completed an oral glucose tolerance test and a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry scan to measure body composition.
Main Outcome Measures
Primary cognitive outcomes were analyzed using analysis of variance and included 3 composites reflecting executive function, verbal memory, and visual memory. Executive function was assessed with Stroop Color-Word Interference, Task Switching, the Self-Ordered Pointing Test, and Word Fluency, verbal memory was assessed with Story Recall and the Hopkins Verbal Learning Test, and visual memory was assessed with the Visual-Spatial Learning Test and Delayed Match-to-Sample.
The intent-to-treat analysis indicated a favorable effect of GHRH on cognition (P=.03), which was comparable in adults with MCI and healthy older adults. The completer analysis showed a similar pattern, with a more robust GHRH effect (P=.002). Subsequent analyses indicated a positive GHRH effect on executive function (P=.005) and a trend showing a similar treatment-related benefit in verbal memory (P=.08). Treatment with GHRH increased insulinlike growth factor 1 levels by 117% (P<.001), which remained within the physiological range, and reduced percent body fat by 7.4% (P<.001). Treatment with GHRH increased fasting insulin levels within the normal range by 35% in adults with MCI (P<.001) but not in healthy adults. Adverse events were mild and were reported by 68% of GHRH-treated adults and 36% of those who received placebo.
Twenty weeks of GHRH administration had favorable effects on cognition in both adults with MCI and healthy older adults. Longer-duration treatment trials are needed to further examine the therapeutic potential of GHRH administration on brain health during normal aging and “pathological aging.”
Trial Registration Identifier: NCT00257712
PMCID: PMC3764914  PMID: 22869065
22.  Drug Fluency: A Potential Marker for Cocaine Use Disorders 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2007;89(1):97-101.
The goal of the current study was to tailor semantic fluency to increase its sensitivity and ecological validity in the study of drug use disorders. On a newly modified “drug” fluency task, individuals with cocaine use disorders who tested positive for cocaine at study day named more drug-related words than control subjects. The number of words provided on the classical semantic fluency task (animals and fruits/vegetables) did not differ between the groups. While the individuals with cocaine use disorders who tested negative for cocaine at study day did not differ from the control subjects in total words named on this task, a qualitative analysis indicated that both cocaine subgroups provided significantly more words pertaining to the experience of using drugs (paraphernalia, administration) than the matched control subjects. These results demonstrate that compared to classical neurocognitive assessment tools, newly tailored measures may be more sensitive to cocaine use disorders, psychopathologies that are often characterized by mild neuropsychological deficits but a well-circumscribed attentional bias to drug-related cues. Future studies are needed to probe the exact cognitive processes and neural circuitry underlying performance on this cue-sensitive 1-minute measure.
PMCID: PMC1892225  PMID: 17234364
semantic memory; cocaine; drug addiction; salience; cue-reactivity; craving; prefrontal cortex
23.  Latent Information in Fluency Lists Predicts Functional Decline in Persons at Risk for Alzheimer Disease 
We constructed random forest classifiers employing either the traditional method of scoring semantic fluency word lists or new methods. These classifiers were then compared in terms of their ability to diagnose Alzheimer disease (AD) or to prognosticate among individuals along the continuum from cognitively normal (CN) through mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to AD.
Semantic fluency lists from 44 cognitively normal elderly individuals, 80 MCI patients, and 41 AD patients were transcribed into electronic text files and scored by four methods: traditional raw scores, clustering and switching scores, “generalized” versions of clustering and switching, and a method based on independent components analysis (ICA). Random forest classifiers based on raw scores were compared to “augmented” classifiers that incorporated newer scoring methods. Outcome variables included AD diagnosis at baseline, MCI conversion, increase in Clinical Dementia Rating-Sum of Boxes (CDR-SOB) score, or decrease in Financial Capacity Instrument (FCI) score. ROC curves were constructed for each classifier and the area under the curve (AUC) was calculated. We compared AUC between raw and augmented classifiers using Delong’s test and assessed validity and reliability of the augmented classifier.
Augmented classifiers outperformed classifiers based on raw scores for the outcome measures AD diagnosis (AUC 0.97 vs. 0.95), MCI conversion (AUC 0.91 vs. 0.77), CDR-SOB increase (AUC 0.90 vs. 0.79), and FCI decrease (AUC 0.89 vs. 0.72). Measures of validity and stability over time support the use of the method.
Latent information in semantic fluency word lists is useful for predicting cognitive and functional decline among elderly individuals at increased risk for developing AD. Modern machine learning methods may incorporate latent information to enhance the diagnostic value of semantic fluency raw scores. These methods could yield information valuable for patient care and clinical trial design with a relatively small investment of time and money.
PMCID: PMC4039569  PMID: 24556551
Alzheimer’s disease; cognitive neuropsychology; dementia; MCI (mild cognitive impairment); machine learning; random forests
24.  A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study of Home-Based Step Training in Older People Using Videogame Technology 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e57734.
Stepping impairments are associated with physical and cognitive decline in older adults and increased fall risk. Exercise interventions can reduce fall risk, but adherence is often low. A new exergame involving step training may provide an enjoyable exercise alternative for preventing falls in older people.
To assess the feasibility and safety of unsupervised, home-based step pad training and determine the effectiveness of this intervention on stepping performance and associated fall risk in older people.
Single-blinded two-arm randomized controlled trial comparing step pad training with control (no-intervention).
Thirty-seven older adults residing in independent-living units of a retirement village in Sydney, Australia.
Intervention group (IG) participants were provided with a computerized step pad system connected to their TVs and played a step game as often as they liked (with a recommended dose of 2–3 sessions per week for 15–20 minutes each) for eight weeks. In addition, IG participants were asked to complete a choice stepping reaction time (CSRT) task once each week.
Main Outcome Measures
CSRT, the Physiological Profile Assessment (PPA), neuropsychological and functional mobility measures were assessed at baseline and eight week follow-up.
Thirty-two participants completed the study (86.5%). IG participants played a median 2.75 sessions/week and no adverse events were reported. Compared to the control group, the IG significantly improved their CSRT (F31,1 = 18.203, p<.001), PPA composite scores (F31,1 = 12.706, p = 0.001), as well as the postural sway (F31,1 = 4.226, p = 0.049) and contrast sensitivity (F31,1 = 4.415, p = 0.044) PPA sub-component scores. In addition, the IG improved significantly in their dual-task ability as assessed by a timed up and go test/verbal fluency task (F31,1 = 4.226, p = 0.049).
Step pad training can be safely undertaken at home to improve physical and cognitive parameters of fall risk in older people without major cognitive and physical impairments.
Trial Registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12611001081909.
PMCID: PMC3589451  PMID: 23472104
25.  Phonological Fluency Strategy of Switching Differentiates Relapsing-Remitting and Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis Patients 
ISRN Neurology  2013;2013:451429.
The strategies used to perform a verbal fluency task appear to be reflective of cognitive abilities necessary for successful daily functioning. In the present study, we explored potential differences in verbal fluency strategies (switching and clustering) used to maximize word production by patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) versus patients with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS). We further assessed impairment rates and potential differences in the sensitivity and specificity of phonological versus semantic verbal fluency tasks in discriminating between those with a diagnosis of MS and healthy adults. We found that the overall rate of impaired verbal fluency in our MS sample was consistent with that in other studies. However, we found no differences between types of MS (SPMS, RRMS), on semantic or phonological fluency word production, or the strategies used to maximize semantic fluency. In contrast, we found that the number of switches differed significantly in the phonological fluency task between the SPMS and RRMS subtypes. The clinical utility of semantic versus phonological fluency in discriminating MS patients from healthy controls did not indicate any significant differences. Further, the strategies used to maximize performance did not differentiate MS subgroups or MS patients from healthy controls.
PMCID: PMC3562673  PMID: 23401793

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