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1.  Impairment of script comprehension in Lewy body spectrum disorders 
Brain and language  2013;125(3):330-343.
A disabling impairment of higher-order language function can be seen in patients with Lewy body spectrum disorders such as Parkinson's disease (PD), Parkinson's disease dementia (PDD), and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). We focus on script comprehension in patients with Lewy body spectrum disorders. While scripts unfold sequentially, constituent events are thought to contain an internal organization. Executive dysfunction in patients with Lewy body spectrum disorders may interfere with comprehension of this internal structure. We examined 42 patients (30 non-demented PD and 12 mildly demented PDD/DLB patients) and 12 healthy seniors. We presented 22 scripts (e.g., “going fishing”), each consisting of six events. Pilot data from young controls provided the basis for organizing associated events into clusters and arranging them hierarchically into scripts. We measured accuracy and latency to judge the order of adjacent events in the same cluster versus adjacent events in different clusters. PDD/DLB patients were less accurate in their ordering judgments than PD patients and controls. Healthy seniors and PD patients were significantly faster to judge correctly the order of highly associated within-cluster event pairs relative to less closely associated different-cluster event pairs, while PDD/DLB patients did not consistently distinguish between these event-pair types. This relative insensitivity to the clustered-hierarchical organization of events was related to executive impairment and to frontal atrophy as measured by volumetric MRI. These findings extend prior work on script processing to patients with Lewy body spectrum disorders and highlight the potential impact of frontal/executive dysfunction on the daily lives of affected patients.
doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2013.02.006
PMCID: PMC3940934  PMID: 23566691
Parkinson's disease; Parkinson's disease dementia; Dementia with Lewy bodies; Frontal cortex; Executive function; Scripts; Organization; Discourse; Volumetric MRI
2.  Deficits in Concept Formation in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 
Neuropsychology  2012;26(4):422-429.
Objective
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
An extra-motor cognitive network is associated with impaired concept formation in ALS.
doi:10.1037/a0028668
PMCID: PMC3516292  PMID: 22612577
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS); executive control; prefrontal cortex; neuropsychology; Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS) Sorting Test
3.  The Organization and Anatomy of Narrative Comprehension and Expression in Lewy Body Spectrum Disorders 
Neuropsychology  2012;26(3):368-384.
Objective
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.
Method
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1037/a0027115
PMCID: PMC3348419  PMID: 22309984
Parkinson’s disease; speech; language; dementia with Lewy bodies
4.  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.
doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2011.09.004
PMCID: PMC3299896  PMID: 22099969
Parkinson’s disease; speech; language; fluency; dementia with Lewy bodies
5.  SOME IS NOT ENOUGH: QUANTIFIER COMPREHENSION IN CORTICOBASAL SYNDROME AND BEHAVIORAL VARIANT FRONTOTEMPORAL DEMENTIA 
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.
doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.09.005
PMCID: PMC3207007  PMID: 21930136
comprehension; quantifier; parietal; frontal; corticobasal; frontotemporal dementia
6.  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.
doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2011.05.006
PMCID: PMC3163000  PMID: 21689852
Parkinson's disease; discourse; speech; language; Dementia with Lewy bodies
7.  SPEECH ERRORS IN PROGRESSIVE NON-FLUENT APHASIA 
Brain and language  2010;113(1):13-20.
The nature and frequency of speech production errors in neurodegenerative disease have not previously been precisely quantified. In the present study, 16 patients with a progressive form of nonfluent aphasia (PNFA) were asked to tell a story from a wordless children’s picture book. Errors in production were classified as either phonemic, involving language-based deformations that nevertheless result in possible sequences of English speech segments; or phonetic, involving a motor planning deficit and resulting in non-English speech segments. The distribution of cortical atrophy as revealed by structural MRI scans was examined quantitatively in a subset of PNFA patients (N=7). The few errors made by healthy seniors were only phonemic in type. PNFA patients made more than four times as many errors as controls. This included both phonemic and phonetic errors, with a preponderance of errors (82%) classified as phonemic. The majority of phonemic errors were substitutions that shared most distinctive features with the target phoneme. The systematic nature of these substitutions is not consistent with a motor planning deficit. Cortical atrophy was found in prefrontal regions bilaterally and peri-Sylvian regions of the left hemisphere. We conclude that the speech errors produced by PNFA patients are mainly errors at the phonemic level of language processing and are not caused by a motor planning impairment.
doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2009.12.001
PMCID: PMC2839014  PMID: 20074786
Progressive non-fluent aphasia; phonology; speech errors

Results 1-7 (7)