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1.  Comparative semantic profiles in semantic dementia and Alzheimer’s disease 
Brain  2013;136(8):2497-2509.
Patients with the semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia, also known as semantic dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease have deficits in semantic memory. However, few comparative studies have been performed to determine whether these patient groups have distinct semantic memory impairments. We asked 15 patients with semantic variant primary progressive aphasia and 57 patients with Alzheimer’s disease to judge semantic category membership of coloured photos and printed words that are members of familiar natural and manufactured categories, and we related performance to grey matter atrophy. We found that both semantic variant primary progressive aphasia and Alzheimer’s disease are significantly impaired on this task. Moreover, patients with semantic variant primary progressive aphasia had a significantly more prominent deficit for natural objects than their own deficit judging manufactured objects. Both semantic variant primary progressive aphasia and Alzheimer’s disease had atrophy that included portions of the left temporal lobe. Regression analyses related performance in semantic variant primary progressive aphasia to ventral and medial portions of the left temporal lobe, while regression analyses in Alzheimer’s disease related performance to these ventral and medial temporal areas as well as lateral temporal-parietal regions in the left hemisphere. We conclude that both semantic variant primary progressive aphasia and Alzheimer’s disease are significantly impaired in a simple category membership judgement task and the selective impairment for natural kinds in semantic variant primary progressive aphasia is related in part to disease in visual association cortex in ventral–medial portions of the left temporal lobe. We discuss factors that may contribute to the semantic memory deficit in semantic variant primary progressive aphasia.
PMCID: PMC3722350  PMID: 23824492
semantic memory; Alzheimer’s disease; semantic dementia; temporal lobe; category-specific
2.  Differentiating primary progressive aphasias in a brief sample of connected speech 
Neurology  2013;81(4):329-336.
A brief speech expression protocol that can be administered and scored without special training would aid in the differential diagnosis of the 3 principal forms of primary progressive aphasia (PPA): nonfluent/agrammatic PPA, logopenic variant PPA, and semantic variant PPA.
We used a picture-description task to elicit a short speech sample, and we evaluated impairments in speech-sound production, speech rate, lexical retrieval, and grammaticality. We compared the results with those obtained by a longer, previously validated protocol and further validated performance with multimodal imaging to assess the neuroanatomical basis of the deficits.
We found different patterns of impaired grammar in each PPA variant, and additional language production features were impaired in each: nonfluent/agrammatic PPA was characterized by speech-sound errors; logopenic variant PPA by dysfluencies (false starts and hesitations); and semantic variant PPA by poor retrieval of nouns. Strong correlations were found between this brief speech sample and a lengthier narrative speech sample. A composite measure of grammaticality and other measures of speech production were correlated with distinct regions of gray matter atrophy and reduced white matter fractional anisotropy in each PPA variant.
These findings provide evidence that large-scale networks are required for fluent, grammatical expression; that these networks can be selectively disrupted in PPA syndromes; and that quantitative analysis of a brief speech sample can reveal the corresponding distinct speech characteristics.
PMCID: PMC3772830  PMID: 23794681
3.  Action verb comprehension in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease 
Journal of neurology  2014;261(6):1073-1079.
Patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) have a motor disorder and cognitive difficulties, including difficulty with action verbs. However, the basis for the action verb impairment is unknown. Thirty-six participants with ALS and 22 with Parkinson’s disease (PD) were assessed on a simple, two-alternative forced-choice associativity judgment task, where performance was untimed and did not depend on motor functioning. We probed 120 frequency-matched action verbs, cognition verbs, concrete nouns and abstract nouns. Performance was related to T1 MRI imaging of gray matter atrophy. Patients with ALS were significantly impaired relative to healthy senior control participants only for action verbs. Patients with PD did not differ from controls for all word categories. Regression analyses related action verb performance in ALS to motor-associated cortices, but action verb judgments in PD were not related to cortical atrophy. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that action verb difficulty in ALS is related in part to the degradation of action-related conceptual knowledge represented in motor-associated cortex.
PMCID: PMC4074280  PMID: 24676939
Comprehension; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Parkinson’s disease
JAMA neurology  2014;71(4):442-448.
An increasingly varied clinical spectrum of cases with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) has been identified, and objective criteria for clinical trial eligibility is necessary.
We sought to develop a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarker sensitive and specific for the diagnosis of ALS.
Case-control study.
Academic medical center.
51 individuals with ALS and 23 individuals with a disorder associated with a four-repeat tauopathy (4R-tau).
CSF level of tau phosophorylated at threonine 181 (ptau), and ratio of ptau to total tau (ttau).
Using a cross-validation prediction procedure, we found significantly reduced CSF levels of ptau and ptau:ttau in ALS relative to 4R-tau and to controls. In the validation cohort, the receiver operating characteristic area under the curve for the ptau:ttau ratio was 0.916, and the comparison of ALS to 4R-tau showed sensitivity=92% and specificity=91.7%. Correct classification based on low CSF ptau:ttau was confirmed in 18 (85.7%) of 21 cases with autopsy-proven or genetically-determined disease. In patients with available measures, ptau:ttau in ALS correlated with clinical measures of disease severity such as Mini Mental State Exam (n=51) and ALS Functional Rating Scale-Revised (n=42), and regression analyses related ptau:ttau to MRI (n=10) evidence of disease in the corticospinal tract and white matter projections involving prefrontal cortex.
CSF ptau:ttau may be a candidate biomarker to provide objective support for the diagnosis of ALS.
PMCID: PMC3989393  PMID: 24492862
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; cerebrospinal fluid; phosphorylated tau; biomarker
NeuroImage  2012;68:263-274.
Patients with Alzheimer’s disease have category-specific semantic memory difficulty for natural relative to manufactured objects. We assessed the basis for this deficit by asking healthy adults and patients to judge whether pairs of words share a feature (e.g. “banana:lemon – COLOR”). In an fMRI study, healthy adults showed gray matter (GM) activation of temporal-occipital cortex (TOC) where visual-perceptual features may be represented, and prefrontal cortex (PFC) which may contribute to feature selection. Tractography revealed dorsal and ventral stream white matter (WM) projections between PFC and TOC. Patients had greater difficulty with natural than manufactured objects. This was associated with greater overlap between diseased GM areas correlated with natural kinds in patients and fMRI activation in healthy adults for natural than manufactured artifacts, and the dorsal WM projection between PFC and TOC in patients correlated only with judgments of natural kinds. Patients thus remained dependent on the same neural network as controls during judgments of natural kinds, despite disease in these areas. For manufactured objects, patients’ judgments showed limited correlations with PFC and TOC GM areas activated by controls, and did not correlate with the PFC-TOC dorsal WM tract. Regions outside of the PFC–TOC network thus may help support patients’ judgments of manufactured objects. We conclude that a large-scale neural network for semantic memory implicates both feature knowledge representations in modality-specific association cortex and heteromodal regions important for accessing this knowledge, and that patients’ relative deficit for natural kinds is due in part to their dependence on this network despite disease in these areas.
PMCID: PMC3557551  PMID: 23220494
semantic; fMRI; DTI; Alzheimer’s; temporal; prefrontal
6.  Sparse canonical correlation analysis relates network-level atrophy to multivariate cognitive measures in a neurodegenerative population 
NeuroImage  2013;84:698-711.
This study establishes that sparse canonical correlation analysis (SCCAN) identifies generalizable, structural MRI-derived cortical networks that relate to five distinct categories of cognition. We obtain multivariate psychometrics from the domain-specific sub-scales of the Philadelphia Brief Assessment of Cognition (PBAC). By using a training and separate testing stage, we find that PBAC-defined cognitive domains of language, visuospatial functioning, episodic memory, executive control, and social functioning correlate with unique and distributed areas of gray matter (GM). In contrast, a parallel univariate framework fails to identify, from the training data, regions that are also significant in the left-out test dataset. The cohort includes164 patients with Alzheimer’s disease, behavioral-variant frontotemporal dementia, semantic variant primary progressive aphasia, nonfluent/agrammatic primary progressive aphasia, or corticobasal syndrome. The analysis is implemented with open-source software for which we provide examples in the text. In conclusion, we show that multivariate techniques identify biologically-plausible brain regions supporting specific cognitive domains. The findings are identified in training data and confirmed in test data.
PMCID: PMC3911786  PMID: 24096125
Alzheimer disease; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Philadelphia Brief Assessment of Cognition; PBAC; MRI; Sparse canonical correlation analysis
7.  Cognitive decline and reduced survival in C9orf72 expansion Frontotemporal degeneration and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Significant heterogeneity in clinical features of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) cases with the pathogenic C9orf72 expansion (C9P) have been described. To clarify this issue, we compared a large C9P cohort with carefully matched non-expansion (C9N) cases with a known or highly-suspected underlying TDP-43 proteinopathy.
A retrospective-cohort study using available cross-sectional and longitudinal clinical and neuropsychological data, MRI voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and neuropathological assessment from 64 C9P cases (ALS=31, FTLD=33) and 79 C9N cases (ALS=36, FTLD=43).
C9P cases had an earlier age of onset (p=0.047), and in the subset of deceased patients, an earlier age of death (p=0.014) than C9N. C9P had more rapid progression than C9N: C9P ALS cases had a shortened survival (2.6±0.3 years) compared to C9N ALS (3.8±0.4 years; log-rankλ2=4.183,p=0.041), and C9P FTLD showed a significantly greater annualized rate of decline in letter fluency (4.5±1.3words/year) than C9N FTLD (1.4±0.8words/year, p=0.023). VBM revealed greater atrophy in the right fronto-insular, thalamus, cerebellum and bilateral parietal regions for C9P FTLD relative to C9N FTLD, and regression analysis related verbal fluency scores to atrophy in frontal and parietal regions. Neuropathologic analysis found greater neuronal loss in the mid-frontal cortex in C9P FTLD, and mid-frontal cortex TDP-43 inclusion severity correlated with poor letter fluency performance.
C9P cases may have a shorter survival in ALS and more rapid rate of cognitive decline related to frontal and parietal disease in FTLD. C9orf72 genotyping may provide useful prognostic and diagnostic clinical information for ALS and FTLD patients.
PMCID: PMC3543474  PMID: 23117491
Frontotemporal dementia; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; C9orf72; neuropsychological tests; neuroimaging
8.  Deficits in Concept Formation in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 
Neuropsychology  2012;26(4):422-429.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is associated with impaired executive control. The aim of the current research was to test the hypothesis that concept formation deficits associated with an extra-motor neurocognitive network involving executive and semantic resources can be found in some ALS patients.
Forty-one patients with clinically-definite ALS were assessed with Delis Kaplan Executive Function System Sorting Test (D-KEFS), a measure of concept formation requiring patients to manipulate verbal and visual semantic information and neuropsychological tests measuring naming, semantic memory, and executive control. Using D-KEFS scale scores, a k-mean cluster analysis specifying a 3-group solution was able to classify ALS patients into groups presenting with mildly impaired, average, and above average sorting test performance. High resolution T1 structural MRI was used to examine cortical thickness in a subset of 16 ALS patients.
Step-wise regression analyses related free and recognition sorting test performance to measures of action naming, single word semantic knowledge, and mental search/working memory. MRI studies found widespread cortical thinning involving bilateral frontal, temporal and parietal regions. Regression analyses related recognition sorting performance to reduced MRI cortical thickness involving the left prefrontal and left parietal cortex.
An extra-motor cognitive network is associated with impaired concept formation in ALS.
PMCID: PMC3516292  PMID: 22612577
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS); executive control; prefrontal cortex; neuropsychology; Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS) Sorting Test
9.  The Organization and Anatomy of Narrative Comprehension and Expression in Lewy Body Spectrum Disorders 
Neuropsychology  2012;26(3):368-384.
Patients with Lewy body spectrum disorders (LBSD) such as Parkinson’s disease (PD), Parkinson’s disease with dementia (PDD), and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) exhibit deficits in both narrative comprehension and narrative expression. The present research examines the hypothesis that these impairments are due to a material-neutral deficit in organizational executive resources rather than to impairments of language per se. We predicted that comprehension and expression of narrative would be similarly affected and that deficits in both expression and comprehension of narrative would be related to the same anatomic distribution of prefrontal disease.
We examined 29 LBSD patients and 26 healthy seniors on their comprehension and expression of narrative discourse. For comprehension, we measured accuracy and latency in judging events with high and low associativity from familiar scripts such as “going fishing.” The expression task involved maintaining the connectedness of events while narrating a story from a wordless picture book.
LBSD patients were impaired on measures of narrative organization during both comprehension and expression relative to healthy seniors. Measures of organization during narrative expression and comprehension were significantly correlated with each other. These measures both correlated with executive measures but not with neuropsychological measures of lexical semantics or grammar. Voxel-based morphometry revealed overlapping regressions relating frontal atrophy to narrative comprehension, narrative expression, and measures of executive control.
Difficulty with narrative discourse in LBSD stems in part from a deficit of organization common to comprehension and expression. This deficit is related to prefrontal cortical atrophy in LBSD.
PMCID: PMC3348419  PMID: 22309984
Parkinson’s disease; speech; language; dementia with Lewy bodies
10.  Impairments of Speech Fluency in Lewy Body Spectrum Disorder 
Brain and Language  2011;120(3):290-302.
Few studies have examined connected speech in demented and non-demented patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD). We assessed the speech production of 35 patients with Lewy body spectrum disorder (LBSD), including non-demented PD patients, patients with PD dementia (PDD), and patients with dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), in a semi-structured narrative speech sample in order to characterize impairments of speech fluency and to determine the factors contributing to reduced speech fluency in these patients. Both demented and non-demented PD patients exhibited reduced speech fluency, characterized by reduced overall speech rate and long pauses between sentences. Reduced speech rate in LBSD correlated with measures of between-utterance pauses, executive functioning, and grammatical comprehension. Regression analyses related non-fluent speech, grammatical difficulty, and executive difficulty to atrophy in frontal brain regions. These findings indicate that multiple factors contribute to slowed speech in LBSD, and this is mediated in part by disease in frontal brain regions.
PMCID: PMC3299896  PMID: 22099969
Parkinson’s disease; speech; language; fluency; dementia with Lewy bodies
11.  Self-appraisal in behavioural variant frontotemporal degeneration 
Previous work investigating deficits in self-appraisal in behavioural-variant frontotemporal degeneration (bvFTD) has focused on a single domain: social/behavioural processes. We examined whether a domain-specific versus multi-domain model best explains degraded self-appraisal in bvFTD.
49 patients with bvFTD and 73 patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) were administered quantitative assessments of episodic memory, naming and grammatical comprehension. Self-appraisal of cognitive test performance was assessed by asking patients to rate their performance immediately after completing each neuropsychological test. A discrepancy score was created to reflect the difference between patient performance on neuropsychological tests and self-appraisal of their test performance. Self-appraisal for each neuropsychological measure was related to grey matter (GM) density in each group using voxel-based morphometry.
bvFTD patients were poor at evaluating their own performance on all cognitive tests, with no significant correlations between self-appraisal and actual performance. By contrast, poor self-appraisal in AD was restricted to episodic memory performance. Poor self-appraisal on each task in bvFTD and AD was related to reduced GM density in several ventral and rostral medial prefrontal regions. Crucially, poor self-appraisal for all domains in bvFTD was related to a specific area of reduced GM density in the subgenual cingulate (BA 25).
Poor self-appraisal in bvFTD affects multiple domains, and this multi-domain impairment pattern is associated with frontal disease in the subgenual cingulate.
PMCID: PMC3556171  PMID: 22952324
Neuropsychologia  2011;49(13):3532-3541.
Quantifiers are very common in everyday speech, but we know little about their cognitive basis or neural representation. The present study examined comprehension of three classes of quantifiers that depend on different cognitive components in patients with focal neurodegenerative diseases. Patients evaluated the truth-value of a sentence containing a quantifier relative to a picture illustrating a small number of familiar objects, and performance was related to MRI grey matter atrophy using voxel-based morphometry. We found that patients with corticobasal syndrome (CBS) and posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) are significantly impaired in their comprehension of Cardinal Quantifiers (e.g. “At least three birds are on the branch”), due in part to their deficit in quantity knowledge. MRI analyses related this deficit to temporal-parietal atrophy found in CBS/PCA. We also found that patients with behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) are significantly impaired in their comprehension of Logical Quantifiers (e.g. “Some the birds are on the branch”), associated with a simple form of perceptual logic, and this correlated with their deficit on executive measures. This deficit was related to disease in rostral prefrontal cortex in bvFTD. These patients were also impaired in their comprehension of Majority Quantifiers (e.g. “At least half of the birds are on the branch”), and this too was correlated with their deficit on executive measures. This was related to disease in the basal ganglia interrupting a frontal-striatal loop critical for executive functioning. These findings suggest that a large-scale frontal-parietal neural network plays a crucial role in quantifier comprehension, and that comprehension of specific classes of quantifiers may be selectively impaired in patients with focal neurodegenerative conditions in these areas.
PMCID: PMC3207007  PMID: 21930136
comprehension; quantifier; parietal; frontal; corticobasal; frontotemporal dementia
13.  The Organization of Narrative Discourse in Lewy Body Spectrum Disorder 
Brain and language  2011;119(1):30-41.
Narrative discourse is an essential component of day-to-day communication, but little is known about narrative in Lewy Body spectrum disorder (LBSD), including Parkinson's disease (PD), Parkinson's disease with dementia (PDD), and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). We performed a detailed analysis of a semi-structured speech sample in 32 non-aphasic patients with LBSD, and we related their narrative impairments to gray matter (GM) atrophy using voxel-based morphometry. We found that patients with PDD and DLB have significant difficulty organizing their narrative speech. This was correlated with deficits on measures of executive functioning and speech fluency. Regression analyses associated this deficit with reduced cortical volume in inferior frontal and anterior cingulate regions. These findings are consistent with a model of narrative discourse that includes executive as well as language components and with an impairment of the organizational component of narrative discourse in patients with PDD and DLB.
PMCID: PMC3163000  PMID: 21689852
Parkinson's disease; discourse; speech; language; Dementia with Lewy bodies
14.  The Philadelphia Brief Assessment of Cognition (PBAC): A Validated Screening Measure for Dementia 
The Clinical Neuropsychologist  2011;25(8):1314-1330.
The Philadelphia Brief Assessment of the Cognition (PBAC) is a brief dementia-screening instrument. The PBAC assesses five cognitive domains: working memory/executive control; lexical retrieval/language; visuospatial/visuoconstructional operations; verbal/visual episodic memory; and behavior/social comportment. A revised version of the PBAC was administered to 198 participants including patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) (n=46) and four groups of patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) syndromes: behavioral-variant FTD (bvFTD; n=65), semantic-variant primary progressive aphasia (PPA) (svPPA; n=22), non-fluent/agrammatic-variant PPA (nfaPPA; n=23), and corticobasal syndrome (CBS; n=42), and a group of normal controls (n=15). The total PBAC score was highly correlated with the MMSE. The criterion validity of the PBAC was assessed relative to standard neuropsychological test performance. Using standard neuropsychological test performance as a criterion, the total PBAC score accurately identified the presence and severity of dementia. Intra-class correlations between PBAC subscales and standard neuropsychological tests were highly significant. PBAC subscales demonstrated good clinical utility in distinguishing AD and FTD subtypes using receiver operating characteristic analysis and standard diagnostic performance statistics to determine optimal subscale cut scores. The PBAC is a valid tool and able to assesses differential patterns neuropsychological/behavioral impairment in a broad range of neurodegenerative conditions.
PMCID: PMC3297195  PMID: 22084867
Alzheimer’s disease; Frontotemporal lobar dementia; Frontotemporal dementia; FTD; Philadelphia Brief Assessment of the Cognition; PBAC; Neuropsychological assessment; Philadelphia (repeatable) Verbal Learning Test

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