Semantic errors in aphasia (e.g., naming a horse as “dog”) frequently arise from faulty mapping of concepts onto lexical items. A recent study by our group used voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping (VLSM) methods with 64 patients with chronic aphasia to identify voxels that carry an association with semantic errors. The strongest associations were found in the left anterior temporal lobe (L-ATL), in the mid- to anterior MTG region. The absence of findings in Wernicke’s area was surprising, as were indications that ATL voxels made an essential contribution to the post-semantic stage of lexical access. In this follow-up study, we sought to validate these results by re-defining semantic errors in a manner that was less theory dependent and more consistent with prior lesion studies. As this change also increased the robustness of the dependent variable, it made it possible to perform additional statistical analyses that further refined the interpretation. The results strengthen the evidence for a causal relationship between ATL damage and lexically-based semantic errors in naming and lend confidence to the conclusion that chronic lesions in Wernicke’s area are not causally implicated in semantic error production.
aphasia; voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping; naming; semantic; errors
Meaningful speech, as exemplified in object naming, calls on knowledge of the mappings between word meanings and phonological forms. Phonological errors in naming (e.g. GHOST named as ‘goath’) are commonly seen in persisting post-stroke aphasia and are thought to signal impairment in retrieval of phonological form information. We performed a voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping analysis of 1718 phonological naming errors collected from 106 individuals with diverse profiles of aphasia. Voxels in which lesion status correlated with phonological error rates localized to dorsal stream areas, in keeping with classical and contemporary brain-language models. Within the dorsal stream, the critical voxels were concentrated in premotor cortex, pre- and postcentral gyri and supramarginal gyrus with minimal extension into auditory-related posterior temporal and temporo-parietal cortices. This challenges the popular notion that error-free phonological retrieval requires guidance from sensory traces stored in posterior auditory regions and points instead to sensory-motor processes located further anterior in the dorsal stream. In a separate analysis, we compared the lesion maps for phonological and semantic errors and determined that there was no spatial overlap, demonstrating that the brain segregates phonological and semantic retrieval operations in word production.
aphasia; dual-stream; voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping; naming; phonological errors; semantic errors
A number of recent studies utilizing both functional neuroimaging and lesion analysis techniques in neurologic patients have produced conflicting results with respect to the neural correlates of picture naming. Picture naming involves a number of cognitive processes, from visual perception/recognition to lexical-semantic retrieval to articulation. This middle process, the ability to retrieve a name associated with an object, has been attributed in some cases to posterior portions of the left lateral temporal lobe and in other cases, to anterior temporal cortex. In the current study, we used voxel-based lesion symptom mapping (VLSM) to identify neural correlates of picture naming in a large sample of well-characterized left hemisphere (LH) patients suffering from a range of naming deficits. We tested patients on the Boston Naming Test (BNT), a clinical, standardized measure of picture naming that is widely used in both clinical and research settings. We found that overall performance on the BNT was associated with a network of LH regions that included significant portions of the left anterior to posterior middle temporal gyrus (MTG) and superior temporal gyrus (STG) and underlying white matter, and extended into left inferior parietal cortex. However, when we added covariates to this analysis that controlled for deficits in visual recognition and motor speech in order to isolate brain regions specific to lexical-semantic retrieval, the significant regions that remained were confined almost exclusively to the left mid-posterior MTG and underlying white matter. These findings support the notion that a large network in left peri-Sylvian cortex supports picture naming, but that the left mid-posterior MTG and underlying white matter play a critical role in the core ability to retrieve a name associated with an object or picture.
Picture naming; Word production; Temporal cortex; Wernicke’s aphasia; Aphasia; Middle temporal gyrus; Lexical-semantics
Lexical access in language production, and particularly pathologies of lexical access, are often investigated by examining errors in picture naming and word repetition. In this article, we test a computational approach to lexical access, the two-step interactive model, by examining whether the model can quantitatively predict the repetition-error patterns of 65 aphasic subjects from their naming errors. The model’s characterizations of the subjects’ naming errors were taken from the companion paper to this one (Schwartz, Dell, N. Martin, Gahl & Sobel, 2006), and their repetition was predicted from the model on the assumption that naming involves two error prone steps, word and phonological retrieval, whereas repetition only creates errors in the second of these steps. A version of the model in which lexical-semantic and lexical-phonological connections could be independently lesioned was generally successful in predicting repetition for the aphasics. An analysis of the few cases in which model predictions were inaccurate revealed the role of input phonology in the repetition task.
Lexical processing requires both activating stored representations, and selecting among active candidates. The current work uses an eye-tracking paradigm to conduct a detailed temporal investigation of lexical processing. Patients with Broca's and Wernicke's aphasia are studied to shed light on the roles of anterior and posterior brain regions in lexical processing as well as the effects of lexical competition on such processing. Experiment 1 investigates whether objects semantically related to an uttered word are preferentially fixated, e.g., given the auditory target 'hammer', do participants fixate a picture of a nail? Results show that, like normals, both groups of patients are more likely to fixate on an object semantically related to the target than an unrelated object. Experiment 2 explores whether Broca's and Wernicke's aphasics show competition effects when words share onsets with the uttered word, e.g., given the auditory target 'hammer', do participants fixate a picture of a hammock? Experiment 3 investigates whether these patients activate words semantically related to onset competitors of the uttered word, e.g., given the auditory target 'hammock' do participants fixate a nail due to partial activation of the onset competitor hammer? Results of Experiments 2 and 3 show pathological patterns of performance for both Broca's and Wernicke's aphasics under conditions of lexical onset competition. However, the patterns of deficit differed, suggesting different functional and computational roles for anterior and posterior areas in lexical processing. Implications of the findings for the functional architecture of the lexical processing system and its potential neural substrates are considered.
Broca’s aphasia; Wernicke’s aphasia; spoken word recognition; eye movements; cohort competition; semantic activation; lexical access
We investigated the influence of phonological neighborhood density (PND) on the performance of aphasic speakers whose naming impairments differentially implicate phonological or semantic stages of lexical access. A word comes from a dense phonological neighborhood if many words sound like it. Limited evidence suggests that higher density facilitates naming in aphasic speakers, as it does in healthy speakers. Using well controlled stimuli, Experiment 1 confirmed the influence of PND on accuracy and phonological error rates in two aphasic speakers with phonological processing deficits. In Experiments 2 and 3, we extended the investigation to an aphasic speaker who is prone to semantic errors, indicating a semantic deficit and/or a deficit in the mapping from semantics to words. This individual had higher accuracy, and fewer semantic errors, in naming targets from high versus low density neighborhoods. It is argued that the results provide strong support for interactive approaches to lexical access, where reverberatory feedback between word- and phoneme-level lexical representations not only facilitates phonological level processes but also privileges the selection of a target word over its semantic competitors.
phonology; neighborhood density; aphasia; interactivity; lexical access
Semantic errors result from the disruption of access either to semantics or to lexical representations. One way to determine the origins of these errors is to evaluate comprehension of words that elicit semantic errors in naming. We hypothesized that in acute stroke there are different brain regions where dysfunction results in semantic errors in both naming and comprehension versus those with semantic errors in oral naming alone.
A consecutive series of 196 patients with acute left hemispheric stroke who met inclusion criteria were evaluated with oral naming and spoken word/picture verification tasks and magnetic resonance imaging within 48 hours of stroke onset. We evaluated the relationship between tissue dysfunction in 10 pre-specified Brodmann's areas (BA) and the production of coordinate semantic errors resulting from (1) semantic deficits or (2) lexical access deficits.
Semantic errors arising from semantic deficits were most associated with tissue dysfunction/infarct of left BA 22. Semantic errors resulting from lexical access deficits were associated with hypoperfusion/infarct of left BA 37.
Our study shows that semantic errors arising from damage to distinct cognitive processes reflect dysfunction of different brain regions.
aphasia; perfusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging; semantics; acute ischemic stroke
While traditional models of language comprehension have focused on the left posterior temporal cortex as the neurological basis for language comprehension, lesion and functional imaging studies indicate the involvement of an extensive network of cortical regions. However, the full extent of this network and the white matter pathways that contribute to it remain to be characterized. In an earlier voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping analysis of data from aphasic patients (Dronkers et al., 2004), several brain regions in the left hemisphere were found to be critical for language comprehension: the left posterior middle temporal gyrus, the anterior part of Brodmann's area 22 in the superior temporal gyrus (anterior STG/BA22), the posterior superior temporal sulcus (STS) extending into Brodmann's area 39 (STS/BA39), the orbital part of the inferior frontal gyrus (BA47), and the middle frontal gyrus (BA46). Here, we investigated the white matter pathways associated with these regions using diffusion tensor imaging from healthy subjects. We also used resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging data to assess the functional connectivity profiles of these regions. Fiber tractography and functional connectivity analyses indicated that the left MTG, anterior STG/BA22, STS/BA39, and BA47 are part of a richly interconnected network that extends to additional frontal, parietal, and temporal regions in the two hemispheres. The inferior occipito-frontal fasciculus, the arcuate fasciculus, and the middle and inferior longitudinal fasciculi, as well as transcallosal projections via the tapetum were found to be the most prominent white matter pathways bridging the regions important for language comprehension. The left MTG showed a particularly extensive structural and functional connectivity pattern which is consistent with the severity of the impairments associated with MTG lesions and which suggests a central role for this region in language comprehension.
aphasia; language comprehension; language network; structural connectivity; fiber tracts; resting-state functional connectivity; disconnection; middle temporal gyrus
Persons with aphasia vary greatly with regard to clinical profile; yet, they all share one common feature—anomia—an impairment in naming common objects. Previous research has demonstrated that particular naming errors are associated with specific left hemisphere lesions. However, we know very little about the cortical activity in the preserved brain areas that is associated with aphasic speech errors. Utilizing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we show for the first time that specific speech errors are associated with common cortical activity in different types and severities of aphasia. Specifically, productions of phonemic errors recruited the left posterior perilesional occipital and temporal lobe areas. A similar pattern of activity was associated with semantic errors, albeit in the right hemisphere. This study does not discount variability in cortical activity following left hemisphere stroke; rather, it highlights commonalities in brain modulation in a population of patients with a common diagnosis but vastly different clinical profiles.
stroke; anomia; speech errors; paraphasia; recovery; right hemisphere; neuroimaging; fMRI
Previous attempts to investigate the effects of semantic tasks on picture naming in both healthy controls and people with aphasia have typically been confounded by inclusion of the phonological word form of the target item. As a result, it is difficult to isolate any facilitatory effects of a semantically-focused task to either lexical-semantic or phonological processing. This functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study examined the neurological mechanisms underlying short-term (within minutes) and long-term (within days) facilitation of naming from a semantic task that did not include the phonological word form, in both participants with aphasia and age-matched controls.
Behavioral results showed that a semantic task that did not include the phonological word form can successfully facilitate subsequent picture naming in both healthy controls and individuals with aphasia. The whole brain neuroimaging results for control participants identified a repetition enhancement effect in the short-term, with modulation of activity found in regions that have not traditionally been associated with semantic processing, such as the right lingual gyrus (extending to the precuneus) and the left inferior occipital gyrus (extending to the fusiform gyrus). In contrast, the participants with aphasia showed significant differences in activation over both the short- and the long-term for facilitated items, predominantly within either left hemisphere regions linked to semantic processing or their right hemisphere homologues.
For control participants in this study, the short-lived facilitation effects of a prior semantic task that did not include the phonological word form were primarily driven by object priming and episodic memory mechanisms. However, facilitation effects appeared to engage a predominantly semantic network in participants with aphasia over both the short- and the long-term. The findings of the present study also suggest that right hemisphere involvement may be supportive rather than maladaptive, and that a large distributed perisylvian network in both cerebral hemispheres supports the facilitation of naming in individuals with aphasia.
Aphasia; Semantic verification; fMRI; Overt picture naming; Semantics
Both taxonomic and thematic semantic relations have been studied extensively in behavioral studies and there is an emerging consensus that the anterior temporal lobe plays a particularly important role in the representation and processing of taxonomic relations, but the neural basis of thematic semantics is less clear. We used eye tracking to examine incidental activation of taxonomic and thematic relations during spoken word comprehension in participants with aphasia. Three groups of participants were tested: neurologically intact control participants (N=14), individuals with aphasia resulting from lesions in left hemisphere BA 39 and surrounding temporo-parietal cortex regions (N=7), and individuals with the same degree of aphasia severity and semantic impairment and anterior left hemisphere lesions (primarily inferior frontal gyrus and anterior temporal lobe) that spared BA 39 (N=6). The posterior lesion group showed reduced and delayed activation of thematic relations, but not taxonomic relations. In contrast, the anterior lesion group exhibited longer-lasting activation of taxonomic relations and did not differ from control participants in terms of activation of thematic relations. These results suggest that taxonomic and thematic semantic knowledge are functionally and neuroanatomically distinct, with the temporo-parietal cortex playing a particularly important role in thematic semantics.
semantic knowledge; semantic deficit; thematic relation; aphasia; eye tracking
Few studies have directly compared the clinical and anatomical characteristics of patients with progressive aphasia to those of patients with aphasia caused by stroke. In the current study we examined fluent forms of aphasia in these two groups, specifically the semantic dementia (SD) and persisting Wernicke's aphasia (WA) due to stroke. We compared 10 patients with SD to 10 age- and education-matched patients with WA in three language domains: language comprehension (single words and sentences), spontaneous speech and visual semantics. Neuroanatomical involvement was analyzed using disease-specific image analysis techniques: voxel-based morphometry (VBM) for patients with SD and overlays of lesion masks in patients with WA. Patients with SD and WA were both impaired on tasks that involved visual semantics, but patients with SD were less impaired in spontaneous speech and sentence comprehension. The anatomical findings showed that different regions were most affected in the two disorders: the left anterior temporal lobe in SD and the left posterior middle temporal gyrus in chronic WA. This study highlights that the two syndromes classically associated with language comprehension deficits in aphasia due to stroke and neurodegenerative disease are clinically distinct, most likely due to distinct distributions of damage in the temporal lobe.
semantic dementia; Wernicke’s aphasia; voxel-based morphometry; comprehension impairments; stroke; primary progressive aphasia
We investigated the association between yes/no sentence comprehension and dysfunction in anterior and posterior left-hemisphere cortical regions in acute stroke patients. More specifically, we manipulated whether questions were Nonreversible (e.g., Are limes sour?) or Reversible (e.g., Is a horse larger than a dog?) to investigate the regions associated with semantic and syntactic processing. In addition, we administered lexical tasks (i.e., Picture-Word Verification, Picture Naming) to help determine the extent to which deficits in sentence processing were related to deficits in lexical processing. We found that errors on the lexical tasks were associated with ischemia in posterior-temporal Brodmann Areas (BA 21, 22, 37) and inferior parietal regions (BA 39, 40). Nonreversible question comprehension was associated with volume of tissue dysfunction, while Reversible question comprehension was associated with posterior regions (BA 39, 40) as well as one anterior region (BA 6). We conclude that deficits in Nonreversible questions required extensive dysfunction that affected language processing across multiple levels, while Reversible question comprehension was associated with regions involved in semantics as well as working memory that indirectly influenced syntactic processing. Overall, this suggests that yes/no question comprehension relies on multiple regions and that the importance of certain regions increases in relation to semantic, phonological, and syntactic complexity.
acute stroke; lesion analysis; sentence comprehension; yes/no questions; semantics; syntax
Comprehension of words is an important part of the language faculty, involving the joint activity of frontal and temporo-parietal brain regions. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) enables the controlled perturbation of brain activity, and thus offers a unique tool to test specific predictions about the causal relationship between brain regions and language understanding. This potential has been exploited to better define the role of regions that are classically accepted as part of the language-semantic network. For instance, TMS has contributed to establish the semantic relevance of the left anterior temporal lobe, or to solve the ambiguity between the semantic vs. phonological function assigned to the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG). We consider, more closely, the results from studies where the same technique, similar paradigms (lexical-semantic tasks) and materials (words) have been used to assess the relevance of regions outside the classically-defined language-semantic network—i.e., precentral motor regions—for the semantic analysis of words. This research shows that different aspects of the left precentral gyrus (primary motor and premotor sites) are sensitive to the action-non action distinction of words' meanings. However, the behavioral changes due to TMS over these sites are incongruent with what is expected after perturbation of a task-relevant brain region. Thus, the relationship between motor activity and language-semantic behavior remains far from clear. A better understanding of this issue could be guaranteed by investigating functional interactions between motor sites and semantically-relevant regions.
neuromodulation; action understanding; neuroimaging; cognitive neuropsychology; language semantics
Knowledge on the patterns of repetition amongst individuals who develop language deficits in association with right hemisphere lesions (crossed aphasia) is very limited. Available data indicate that repetition in some crossed aphasics experiencing phonological processing deficits is not heavily influenced by lexical-semantic variables (lexicality, imageability, and frequency) as is regularly reported in phonologically-impaired cases with left hemisphere damage. Moreover, in view of the fact that crossed aphasia is rare, information on the role of right cortical areas and white matter tracts underpinning language repetition deficits is scarce. In this study, repetition performance was assessed in two patients with crossed conduction aphasia and striatal/capsular vascular lesions encompassing the right arcuate fasciculus (AF) and inferior frontal-occipital fasciculus (IFOF), the temporal stem and the white matter underneath the supramarginal gyrus. Both patients showed lexicality effects repeating better words than non-words, but manipulation of other lexical-semantic variables exerted less influence on repetition performance. Imageability and frequency effects, production of meaning-based paraphrases during sentence repetition, or better performance on repeating novel sentences than overlearned clichés were hardly ever observed in these two patients. In one patient, diffusion tensor imaging disclosed damage to the right long direct segment of the AF and IFOF with relative sparing of the anterior indirect and posterior segments of the AF, together with fully developed left perisylvian white matter pathways. These findings suggest that striatal/capsular lesions extending into the right AF and IFOF in some individuals with right hemisphere language dominance are associated with atypical repetition patterns which might reflect reduced interactions between phonological and lexical-semantic processes.
right hemisphere; language; crossed aphasia; conduction aphasia; language network; structural connectivity
Verbal working memory is an essential component of many language functions, including sentence comprehension and word learning. As such, working memory has emerged as a domain of intense research interest both in aphasiology and in the broader field of cognitive neuroscience. The integrity of verbal working memory encoding relies on a fluid interaction between semantic and phonological processes. That is, we encode verbal detail using many cues related to both the sound and meaning of words. Lesion models can provide an effective means of parsing the contributions of phonological or semantic impairment to recall performance.
Methods and Procedures
We employed the lesion model approach here by contrasting the nature of lexicality errors incurred during recall of word and nonword sequences by 3individuals with progressive nonfluent aphasia (a phonological dominant impairment) compared to that of 2 individuals with semantic dementia (a semantic dominant impairment). We focused on psycholinguistic attributes of correctly recalled stimuli relative to those that elicited a lexicality error (i.e., nonword → word OR word → nonword).
Outcomes and results
Patients with semantic dementia showed greater sensitivity to phonological attributes (e.g., phoneme length, wordlikeness) of the target items relative to semantic attributes (e.g., familiarity). Patients with PNFA showed the opposite pattern, marked by sensitivity to word frequency, age of acquisition, familiarity, and imageability.
We interpret these results in favor of a processing strategy such that in the context of a focal phonological impairment patients revert to an over-reliance on preserved semantic processing abilities. In contrast, a focal semantic impairment forces both reliance upon and hypersensitivity to phonological attributes of target words. We relate this interpretation to previous hypotheses about the nature of verbal short-term memory in progressive aphasia.
Working Memory; Recall; Semantic Dementia; Aphasia; Progressive Nonfluent Aphasia
The role of lexical-semantic neighborhood is relevant to models of lexical access. Recently it has been claimed that the size of the cohort of activated competitors affects ease of lexical selection in word production as well as the effect of semantically related distractors in picture–word interference tasks. Three experiments are reported in which subjects had to name pictures from large and small semantic categories (cf. “lion,” “hammer” versus “funnel,” “cage”). In Experiment 1, naming-impaired subjects exhibited semantic errors for targets from large categories. No semantic but many omission errors occurred for targets from small categories suggesting that few competitors were available for these “low competition targets.” In contrast in two experiments with unimpaired subjects, targets were named equally fast. These experiments were sensitive enough to yield a highly significant repetition effect in Experiment 2. Contrary to the explicit predictions of a recent proposal, semantically related distractors caused interference for both groups of words in Experiment 3. The results suggest no role of neighborhood size in the naming of unimpaired individuals. Implications for models of lexical selection are discussed.
speech production; lexical access; competition; interference; lexical-semantic cohorts
The semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia (PPA) is characterized by the combination of word comprehension deficits, fluent aphasia and a particularly severe anomia. In this study, two novel tasks were used to explore the factors contributing to the anomia. The single most common factor was a blurring of distinctions among members of a semantic category, leading to errors of overgeneralization in word–object matching tasks as well as in word definitions and object descriptions. This factor was more pronounced for natural kinds than artifacts. In patients with the more severe anomias, conceptual maps were more extensively disrupted so that inter-category distinctions were as impaired as intra-category distinctions. Many objects that could not be named aloud could be matched to the correct word in patients with mild but not severe anomia, reflecting a gradual intensification of the semantic factor as the naming disorder becomes more severe. Accurate object descriptions were more frequent than accurate word definitions and all patients experienced prominent word comprehension deficits that interfered with everyday activities but no consequential impairment of object usage or face recognition. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed three characteristics: greater atrophy of the left hemisphere; atrophy of anterior components of the perisylvian language network in the superior and middle temporal gyri; and atrophy of anterior components of the face and object recognition network in the inferior and medial temporal lobes. The left sided asymmetry and perisylvian extension of the atrophy explains the more profound impairment of word than object usage and provides the anatomical basis for distinguishing the semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia from the partially overlapping group of patients that fulfil the widely accepted diagnostic criteria for semantic dementia.
aphasia; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; language processing; progressive aphasia; semantic categorization
Primary progressive aphasia (PPA) is a focal neurodegeneration of the brain affecting the language network. Patients can have isolated language impairment for years without impairment in other areas. PPA is classified as primary progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA), semantic dementia (SD), and logopenic aphasia, which have distinct patterns of atrophy on neuroimaging. PNFA and SD are included under frontotemporal lobar degenerations. PNFA patients have effortful speech with agrammatism, which is frequently associated with apraxia of speech and demonstrate atrophy in the left Broca’s area and surrounding region on neuroimaging. Patients with SD have dysnomia with loss of word and object (or face) meaning with asymmetric anterior temporal lobe atrophy. Logopenic aphasics have word finding difficulties with frequent pauses in conversation, intact grammar, and word comprehension but impaired repetition for sentences. The atrophy is predominantly in the left posterior temporal and inferior parietal regions. Recent studies have described several progranulin mutations on chromosome 17 in PNFA. The three clinical syndromes have a less robust relationship to the underlying pathology, which is heterogeneous and includes tauopathy, ubiquitinopathy, Pick’s disease, corticobasal degeneration, progressive supranuclear palsy, and Alzheimer’s disease. Recent studies, however, seem to indicate that a better characterization of the clinical phenotype (apraxic, agrammatic, semantic, logopenic, jargon) increases the predictive value of the underlying pathology. Substantial advances have been made in our understanding of PPAs but developing new biomarkers is essential in making accurate causative diagnoses in individual patients. This is critically important in the development and evaluation of disease-modifying drugs.
Alzheimer’s disease; frontotemporal dementia; logopenic aphasia; neuroimaging; nonfluent aphasia; primary progressive aphasia; semantic dementia
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.
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.
dementia; semantic; language; naming; frontotemporal
Robson et al. use fMRI to investigate preserved written word and picture comprehension in Wernicke’s aphasia (impaired verbal comprehension following left temporoparietal damage). Bilaterally enhanced activation in the ventral and anterior temporal lobes as patients semantically process visually presented material emphasizes the importance of these regions for multimodal comprehension.
Wernicke’s aphasia occurs after a stroke to classical language comprehension regions in the left temporoparietal cortex. Consequently, auditory–verbal comprehension is significantly impaired in Wernicke’s aphasia but the capacity to comprehend visually presented materials (written words and pictures) is partially spared. This study used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the neural basis of written word and picture semantic processing in Wernicke’s aphasia, with the wider aim of examining how the semantic system is altered after damage to the classical comprehension regions. Twelve participants with chronic Wernicke’s aphasia and 12 control participants performed semantic animate–inanimate judgements and a visual height judgement baseline task. Whole brain and region of interest analysis in Wernicke’s aphasia and control participants found that semantic judgements were underpinned by activation in the ventral and anterior temporal lobes bilaterally. The Wernicke’s aphasia group displayed an ‘over-activation’ in comparison with control participants, indicating that anterior temporal lobe regions become increasingly influential following reduction in posterior semantic resources. Semantic processing of written words in Wernicke’s aphasia was additionally supported by recruitment of the right anterior superior temporal lobe, a region previously associated with recovery from auditory-verbal comprehension impairments. Overall, the results provide support for models in which the anterior temporal lobes are crucial for multimodal semantic processing and that these regions may be accessed without support from classic posterior comprehension regions.
Wernicke’s aphasia; semantic processing; language comprehension; anterior temporal lobe; Wernicke’s area
This paper investigates the cognitive processes underlying picture naming and auditory word repetition. In the 2-step model of lexical access, both the semantic and phonological steps are involved in naming, but the former has no role in repetition. Assuming recognition of the to-be-repeated word, repetition could consist of retrieving the word’s output phonemes from the lexicon (the lexical-route model), retrieving the output phonology directly from input phonology (the nonlexical-route model) or employing both routes together (the summation dual-route model). We tested these accounts by comparing the size of the word frequency effect (an index of lexical retrieval) in naming and repetition data from 59 aphasic patients with simulations of naming and repetition models. The magnitude of the frequency effect (and the influence of other lexical variables) was found to be comparable in naming and repetition, and equally large for both the lexical and summation dual-route models. However, only the dual-route model was fully consistent with data from patients, suggesting that nonlexical input is added on top of a fully-utilized lexical route.
Lexical access; Aphasia; Repetition; Picture naming; Computational models; Case-series; Word frequency
Deficits of semantic cognition in semantic dementia and in aphasia consequent on CVA (stroke) are qualitatively different. Patients with semantic dementia are characterised by progressive degradation of central semantic representations, whereas multimodal semantic deficits in stroke aphasia reflect impairment of executive processes that help to direct and control semantic activation in a task-appropriate fashion (Jefferies and Lambon Ralph, 2006). We explored interactions between these two aspects of semantic cognition by examining the effects of cumulative phonemic cueing on picture naming in case series of these two types of patient. The stroke aphasic patients with multimodal semantic deficits cued very readily and demonstrated near-perfect name retrieval when cumulative phonemic cues reached or exceeded the target name’s uniqueness point. Therefore, knowledge of the picture names was largely intact for the aphasic patients, but they were unable to retrieve this information without cues that helped to direct activation towards the target response. Equivalent phonemic cues engendered significant but much more limited benefit to the semantic dementia patients: their naming was still severely impaired even when most of the word had been provided. In contrast to the pattern in the stroke aphasia group, successful cueing was mainly confined to the more familiar un-named pictures. We propose that this limited cueing effect in semantic dementia follows from the fact that concepts deteriorate in a graded fashion (Rogers et al., 2004). For partially degraded items, the residual conceptual knowledge may be insufficient to drive speech production to completion but these items might reach threshold when they are bolstered by cues.
semantic dementia; CVA; stroke; aphasia; picture naming; cueing; semantic memory; executive control
The cyclic naming paradigm, in which participants are slower to name pictures blocked by semantic category than pictures in an unrelated context, offers a window into the dynamics of the mapping between lexical concepts and words. Here we provide evidence for the view that incremental adjustments to the connection weights from semantics to lexical items provides an elegant explanation of a range of observations within the cyclic naming paradigm. Our principal experimental manipulation is to vary the within-category semantic distance among items that must be named together in a block. In the first set of experiments we find that naming latencies are, if anything, faster for within-category semantically close blocks compared to within-category semantically far blocks, for the first presentation of items. This effect can be explained by the fact that there will be more spreading activation, and thus greater priming at the lexical level, for within-category semantically close blocks than within-category semantically far blocks. We test this explanation by inserting intervening filler items (geometric shapes), and show as predicted, that while intervening unrelated trials abolish short-lived semantic priming effects, the long-lag interference effect that is characteristic of this paradigm is unaffected. These data place new constraints on explanations of the cyclic naming effect, and related phenomena, within a model of language production.
lexical access; speech production; semantic interference; semantic facilitation; semantic distance; cyclic naming paradigm