Patients with primary progressive aphasia (PPA) vary considerably in terms of which brain regions are impacted, as well as in the extent to which syntactic processing is impaired. Here we review the literature on the neural basis of syntactic deficits in PPA. Structural and functional imaging studies have most consistently associated syntactic deficits with damage to left inferior frontal cortex. Posterior perisylvian regions have been implicated in some studies. Damage to the superior longitudinal fasciculus, including its arcuate component, has been linked with syntactic deficits, even after gray matter atrophy is taken into account. These findings suggest that syntactic processing depends on left frontal and posterior perisylvian regions, as well as intact connectivity between them. In contrast, anterior temporal regions, and the ventral tracts that link frontal and temporal language regions, appear to be less important for syntax, since they are damaged in many PPA patients with spared syntactic processing.
syntax; primary progressive aphasia; voxel-based morphometry; functional MRI; diffusion tensor imaging
Word production is a complex multi-stage process linking conceptual representations, lexical entries, phonological forms and articulation. Previous studies have revealed a network of predominantly left-lateralized brain regions supporting this process, but many details regarding the precise functions of different nodes in this network remain unclear. In order to better delineate the functions of regions involved in word production, we used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify brain areas where blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) responses to overt picture naming were modulated by three psycholinguistic variables: concept familiarity, word frequency, and word length, and one behavioral variable: reaction time. Each of these variables has been suggested by prior studies to be associated with different aspects of word production. Processing of less familiar concepts was associated with greater BOLD responses in bilateral occipito-temporal regions, reflecting visual processing and conceptual preparation. Lower frequency words produced greater BOLD signal in left inferior temporal cortex and the left temporo-parietal junction, suggesting involvement of these regions in lexical selection and retrieval and encoding of phonological codes. Word length was positively correlated with signal intensity in Heschl's gyrus bilaterally, extending into the mid superior temporal gyrus (STG) and sulcus (STS) in the left hemisphere. The left mid STS site was also modulated by reaction time, suggesting a role in the storage of lexical phonological codes.
functional MRI; event-related; lexical access
Frontal and temporal language areas involved in syntactic processing are connected by several dorsal and ventral tracts, but the functional roles of the different tracts are not well understood. To identify which white matter tract(s) are important for syntactic processing, we examined the relationship between white matter damage and syntactic deficits in patients with primary progressive aphasia, using multimodal neuroimaging and neurolinguistic assessment. Diffusion tensor imaging showed that microstructural damage to left hemisphere dorsal tracts—the superior longitudinal fasciculus including its arcuate component—was strongly associated with deficits in comprehension and production of syntax. Damage to these dorsal tracts predicted syntactic deficits after gray matter atrophy was taken into account, and fMRI confirmed that these tracts connect regions modulated by syntactic processing. In contrast, damage to ventral tracts—the extreme capsule fiber system or the uncinate fasciculus—was not associated with syntactic deficits. Our findings show that syntactic processing depends primarily on dorsal language tracts.
Primary progressive aphasia is a clinical syndrome that encompasses three major phenotypes: non-fluent/agrammatic, semantic and logopenic. These clinical entities have been associated with characteristic patterns of focal grey matter atrophy in left posterior frontoinsular, anterior temporal and left temporoparietal regions, respectively. Recently, network-level dysfunction has been hypothesized but research to date has focused largely on studying grey matter damage. The aim of this study was to assess the integrity of white matter tracts in the different primary progressive aphasia subtypes. We used diffusion tensor imaging in 48 individuals: nine non-fluent, nine semantic, nine logopenic and 21 age-matched controls. Probabilistic tractography was used to identify bilateral inferior longitudinal (anterior, middle, posterior) and uncinate fasciculi (referred to as the ventral pathway); and the superior longitudinal fasciculus segmented into its frontosupramarginal, frontoangular, frontotemporal and temporoparietal components, (referred to as the dorsal pathway). We compared the tracts’ mean fractional anisotropy, axial, radial and mean diffusivities for each tract in the different diagnostic categories. The most prominent white matter changes were found in the dorsal pathways in non-fluent patients, in the two ventral pathways and the temporal components of the dorsal pathways in semantic variant, and in the temporoparietal component of the dorsal bundles in logopenic patients. Each of the primary progressive aphasia variants showed different patterns of diffusion tensor metrics alterations: non-fluent patients showed the greatest changes in fractional anisotropy and radial and mean diffusivities; semantic variant patients had severe changes in all metrics; and logopenic patients had the least white matter damage, mainly involving diffusivity, with fractional anisotropy altered only in the temporoparietal component of the dorsal pathway. This study demonstrates that both careful dissection of the main language tracts and consideration of all diffusion tensor metrics are necessary to characterize the white matter changes that occur in the variants of primary progressive aphasia. These results highlight the potential value of diffusion tensor imaging as a new tool in the multimodal diagnostic evaluation of primary progressive aphasia.
primary progressive aphasia; progressive non-fluent aphasia; semantic dementia; logopenic progressive aphasia; diffusion tensor imaging
To characterize cognitive and behavioral features, physical findings and brain atrophy patterns in pathology-proven corticobasal degeneration (CBD) and corticobasal syndrome (CBS) with known histopathology.
We reviewed clinical and MRI data in all patients evaluated at our center with either an autopsy diagnosis of CBD (n=18) or clinical CBS at first presentation with known histopathology (n=40). Atrophy patterns were compared using voxel-based morphometry.
CBD was associated with four clinical syndromes: progressive nonfluent aphasia (5), behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (5), executive-motor (7), and posterior cortical atrophy (1). Behavioral or cognitive problems were the initial symptoms in 15/18 patients; less than half exhibited early motor findings. Compared to controls, CBD patients showed atrophy in dorsal prefrontal and peri-rolandic cortex, striatum and brainstem (p<0.001 uncorrected). The most common pathologic substrates for clinical CBS were CBD (35%), Alzheimer’s disease (AD, 23%), progressive supranuclear palsy (13%), and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) with TDP inclusions (13%). CBS was associated with perirolandic atrophy irrespective of underlying pathology. In CBS due to FTLD (tau or TDP), atrophy extended into prefrontal cortex, striatum and brainstem, while in CBS due to AD, atrophy extended into temporoparietal cortex and precuneus (p<0.001 uncorrected).
Frontal lobe involvement is characteristic of CBD, and in many patients frontal, not parietal or basal ganglia symptoms, dominate early-stage disease. CBS is driven by medial peri-rolandic dysfunction, but this anatomy is not specific to one single underlying histopathology. Antemortem prediction of CBD will remain challenging until clinical features of CBD are redefined, and sensitive, specific biomarkers are identified.
Primary progressive aphasia is a clinical syndrome defined by progressive deficits isolated to speech and/or language, and can be classified into non-fluent, semantic and logopenic variants based on motor speech, linguistic and cognitive features. The connected speech of patients with primary progressive aphasia has often been dichotomized simply as ‘fluent’ or ‘non-fluent’, however fluency is a multidimensional construct that encompasses features such as speech rate, phrase length, articulatory agility and syntactic structure, which are not always impacted in parallel. In this study, our first objective was to improve the characterization of connected speech production in each variant of primary progressive aphasia, by quantifying speech output along a number of motor speech and linguistic dimensions simultaneously. Secondly, we aimed to determine the neuroanatomical correlates of changes along these different dimensions. We recorded, transcribed and analysed speech samples for 50 patients with primary progressive aphasia, along with neurodegenerative and normal control groups. Patients were scanned with magnetic resonance imaging, and voxel-based morphometry was used to identify regions where atrophy correlated significantly with motor speech and linguistic features. Speech samples in patients with the non-fluent variant were characterized by slow rate, distortions, syntactic errors and reduced complexity. In contrast, patients with the semantic variant exhibited normal rate and very few speech or syntactic errors, but showed increased proportions of closed class words, pronouns and verbs, and higher frequency nouns, reflecting lexical retrieval deficits. In patients with the logopenic variant, speech rate (a common proxy for fluency) was intermediate between the other two variants, but distortions and syntactic errors were less common than in the non-fluent variant, while lexical access was less impaired than in the semantic variant. Reduced speech rate was linked with atrophy to a wide range of both anterior and posterior language regions, but specific deficits had more circumscribed anatomical correlates. Frontal regions were associated with motor speech and syntactic processes, anterior and inferior temporal regions with lexical retrieval, and posterior temporal regions with phonological errors and several other types of disruptions to fluency. These findings demonstrate that a multidimensional quantification of connected speech production is necessary to characterize the differences between the speech patterns of each primary progressive aphasic variant adequately, and to reveal associations between particular aspects of connected speech and specific components of the neural network for speech production.
primary progressive aphasia; progressive non-fluent aphasia; semantic dementia; logopenic progressive aphasia; speech production
The left posterior inferior frontal cortex (IFC) is important for syntactic processing, and has been shown in many functional imaging studies to be differentially recruited for the processing of syntactically complex sentences relative to simpler ones. In the non-fluent variant of primary progressive aphasia (PPA), degeneration of the posterior IFC is associated with expressive and receptive agrammatism, however the functional status of this region in non-fluent PPA is not well understood. Our objective was to determine whether the atrophic posterior IFC is differentially recruited for the processing of syntactically complex sentences in non-fluent PPA. Using structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging, we quantified tissue volumes and functional responses to a syntactic comprehension task in eight patients with non-fluent PPA, compared to healthy age-matched controls. In controls, the posterior IFC showed more activity for syntactically complex sentences than simpler ones, as expected. In non-fluent PPA patients, the posterior IFC was atrophic and, unlike controls, showed an equivalent level of functional activity for syntactically complex and simpler sentences. This abnormal pattern of functional activity was specific to the posterior IFC: the mid superior temporal sulcus, another region modulated by syntactic complexity in controls, showed normal modulation by complexity in patients. A more anterior inferior frontal region was recruited by patients, but did not support successful syntactic processing. We conclude that in non-fluent PPA, the posterior IFC is not only structurally damaged, but is also functionally abnormal, suggesting a critical role for this region in the breakdown of syntactic processing in this syndrome.
syntactic processing; primary progressive aphasia; progressive non-fluent aphasia; inferior frontal gyrus; superior temporal sulcus; functional magnetic resonance imaging
Previous studies with brain-injured patients have suggested that language abilities are necessary for complex problem solving, even when tasks are non-verbal. In the current study, we tested this notion by analyzing behavioral and neuroimaging data from a large group of left-hemisphere stroke patients (n = 107) suffering from a range of language impairment from none to severe. Patients were tested on the Raven’s Colored Progressive Matrices (RCPM), a non-verbal test of reasoning that requires participants to complete a visual pattern or sequence with one of six possible choices. For some items, the solution could be determined by visual pattern-matching, but other items required more complex, relational reasoning. As predicted, performance on the relational-reasoning items was disproportionately affected in language-impaired patients with aphasia, relative to non-aphasic, left-hemisphere patients. A voxel-based lesion symptom mapping (VLSM) procedure was used to relate patients’ RCPM performance with areas of damage in the brain. Results showed that deficits on the relational reasoning problems were associated with lesions in the left middle and superior temporal gyri, regions essential for language processing, as well as in the left inferior parietal lobule. In contrast, the visual pattern-matching condition was associated with lesions in posterior portions of the left hemisphere that subserve visual processing, namely, occipital and inferotemporal cortex. These findings provide compelling support for the idea that language is critical for higher-level reasoning and problem-solving.
Cognitive deficits in semantic dementia have been attributed to anterior temporal lobe grey matter damage; however, key aspects of the syndrome could be due to altered anatomical connectivity between language pathways involving the temporal lobe. The aim of this study was to investigate the left language-related cerebral pathways in semantic dementia using diffusion tensor imaging-based tractography and to combine the findings with cortical anatomical and functional magnetic resonance imaging data obtained during a reading activation task. The left inferior longitudinal fasciculus, arcuate fasciculus and fronto-parietal superior longitudinal fasciculus were tracked in five semantic dementia patients and eight healthy controls. The left uncinate fasciculus and the genu and splenium of the corpus callosum were also obtained for comparison with previous studies. From each tract, mean diffusivity, fractional anisotropy, as well as parallel and transverse diffusivities were obtained. Diffusion tensor imaging results were related to grey and white matter atrophy volume assessed by voxel-based morphometry and functional magnetic resonance imaging activations during a reading task. Semantic dementia patients had significantly higher mean diffusivity, parallel and transverse in the inferior longitudinal fasciculus. The arcuate and uncinate fasciculi demonstrated significantly higher mean diffusivity, parallel and transverse and significantly lower fractional anisotropy. The fronto-parietal superior longitudinal fasciculus was relatively spared, with a significant difference observed for transverse diffusivity and fractional anisotropy, only. In the corpus callosum, the genu showed lower fractional anisotropy compared with controls, while no difference was found in the splenium. The left parietal cortex did not show significant volume changes on voxel-based morphometry and demonstrated normal functional magnetic resonance imaging activation in response to reading items that stress sublexical phonological processing. This study shows that semantic dementia is associated with anatomical damage to the major superior and inferior temporal white matter connections of the left hemisphere likely involved in semantic and lexical processes, with relative sparing of the fronto-parietal superior longitudinal fasciculus. Fronto-parietal regions connected by this tract were activated normally in the same patients during sublexical reading. These findings contribute to our understanding of the anatomical changes that occur in semantic dementia, and may further help to explain the dissociation between marked single-word and object knowledge deficits, but sparing of phonology and fluency in semantic dementia.
semantic dementia; semantic knowledge; diffusion tensor-based tractography; functional MRI; voxel-based morphometry
Degeneration of language regions in the dominant hemisphere can result in primary progressive aphasia (PPA), a clinical syndrome characterized by progressive deficits in speech and/or language function. Recent studies have identified three variants of PPA: progressive non-fluent aphasia (PNFA), semantic dementia (SD) and logopenic progressive aphasia (LPA). Each variant is associated with characteristic linguistic features, distinct patterns of brain atrophy, and different likelihoods of particular underlying pathogenic processes, which makes correct differential diagnosis highly clinically relevant. Evaluation of linguistic behavior can be challenging for non-specialists, and neuroimaging findings in single subjects are often difficult to evaluate by eye. We investigated the utility of automated structural MR image analysis to discriminate PPA variants (N=86) from each other and from normal controls (N=115). T1 images were preprocessed to obtain modulated grey matter (GM) images. Feature selection was performed with principal components analysis (PCA) on GM images as well as images of lateralized atrophy. PC coefficients were classified with linear support vector machines, and a cross-validation scheme was used to obtain accuracy rates for generalization to novel cases. The overall mean accuracy in discriminating between pairs of groups was 92.2%. For one pair of groups, PNFA and SD, we also investigated the utility of including several linguistic variables as features. Models with both imaging and linguistic features performed better than models with only imaging or only linguistic features. These results suggest that automated methods could assist in the differential diagnosis of PPA variants, enabling therapies to be targeted to likely underlying etiologies.
While sarcasm can be conveyed solely through contextual cues such as counterfactual or echoic statements, face-to-face sarcastic speech may be characterized by specific paralinguistic features that alert the listener to interpret the utterance as ironic or critical, even in the absence of contextual information. We investigated the neuroanatomy underlying failure to understand sarcasm from dynamic vocal and facial paralinguistic cues. Ninety subjects (20 frontotemporal dementia, 11 semantic dementia [SemD], 4 progressive nonfluent aphasia, 27 Alzheimer’s disease, 6 corticobasal degeneration, 9 progressive supranuclear palsy, 13 healthy older controls) were tested using the Social Inference – Minimal subtest of The Awareness of Social Inference Test (TASIT). Subjects watched brief videos depicting sincere or sarcastic communication and answered yes-no questions about the speaker’s intended meaning. All groups interpreted Sincere (SIN) items normally, and only the SemD group was impaired on the Simple Sarcasm (SSR) condition. Patients failing the SSR performed more poorly on dynamic emotion recognition tasks and had more neuropsychiatric disturbances, but had better verbal and visuospatial working memory than patients who comprehended sarcasm. Voxel-based morphometry analysis of SSR scores in SPM5 demonstrated that poorer sarcasm comprehension was predicted by smaller volume in bilateral posterior parahippocampii (PHc), temporal poles, and R medial frontal pole (pFWE<0.05). This study provides lesion data suggesting that the PHc may be involved in recognizing a paralinguistic speech profile as abnormal, leading to interpretive processing by the temporal poles and right medial frontal pole that identifies the social context as sarcastic, and recognizes the speaker’s paradoxical intentions.
There is increasing recognition that set-shifting, a form of cognitive control, is mediated by different neural structures. However, these regions have not yet been carefully identified as many studies do not account for the influence of component processes (e.g., motor speed). We investigated gray matter correlates of set-shifting while controlling for component processes. Using the Design Fluency (DF), Trail Making Test (TMT), and Color Word Interference (CWI) subtests from the Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS), we investigated the correlation between set-shifting performance and gray matter volume in 160 subjects with neurodegenerative disease, mild cognitive impairment, and healthy older adults using voxel-based morphometry. All three set-shifting tasks correlated with multiple, widespread gray matter regions. After controlling for the component processes, set-shifting performance correlated with focal regions in prefrontal and posterior parietal cortices. We also identified bilateral prefrontal cortex and the right posterior parietal lobe as common sites for set-shifting across the three tasks. There was a high degree of multicollinearity between the set-shifting conditions and the component processes of TMT and CWI, suggesting DF may better isolate set-shifting regions. Overall, these findings highlight the neuroanatomical correlates of set-shifting and the importance of controlling for component processes when investigating complex cognitive tasks.
D-KEFS; Design fluency; Trail making test; Color word interference; Executive function; Voxel-based morphometry
Semantic dementia (SD) is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by atrophy of anterior temporal regions and progressive loss of semantic memory. SD patients often present with surface dyslexia, a relatively selective impairment in reading low-frequency words with exceptional or atypical spelling-to-sound correspondences. Exception words are typically ‘over-regularized’ in SD and pronounced as they are spelled (e.g. ‘sew’ is pronounced as ‘sue’). This suggests that in the absence of sufficient item-specific knowledge, exception words are read by relying mainly on subword processes for regular mapping of orthography to phonology. In this study, we investigated the functional anatomy of surface dyslexia in SD using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and studied its relationship to structural damage with voxel-based morphometry (VBM). Five SD patients and nine healthy age-matched controls were scanned while they read regular words, exception words and pseudowords in an event-related design. Vocal responses were recorded and revealed that all patients were impaired in reading low-frequency exception words, and made frequent over-regularization errors. Consistent with prior studies, fMRI data revealed that both groups activated a similar basic network of bilateral occipital, motor and premotor regions for reading single words. VBM showed that these regions were not significantly atrophied in SD. In control subjects, a region in the left intraparietal sulcus was activated for reading pseudowords and low-frequency regular words but not exception words, suggesting a role for this area in subword mapping from orthographic to phonological representations. In SD patients only, this inferior parietal region, which was not atrophied, was also activated by reading low-frequency exception words, especially on trials where over-regularization errors occurred. These results suggest that the left intraparietal sulcus is involved in subword reading processes that are differentially recruited in SD when word-specific information is lost. This loss is likely related to degeneration of the anterior temporal lobe, which was severely atrophied in SD. Consistent with this, left mid-fusiform and superior temporal regions that showed reading-related activations in controls were not activated in SD. Taken together, these results suggest that the left inferior parietal region subserves subword orthographic-to-phonological processes that are recruited for exception word reading when retrieval of exceptional, item-specific word forms is impaired by degeneration of the anterior temporal lobe.
semantic dementia; dyslexia; parietal lobe; voxel-based morphometry; functional MRI
Several functional and structural imaging studies have investigated the neural basis of personality in healthy adults, but human lesions studies are scarce. Personality changes are a common symptom in patients with neurodegenerative diseases like frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and semantic dementia (SD), allowing a unique window into the neural basis of personality. In this study, we used the Interpersonal Adjective Scales to investigate the structural basis of eight interpersonal traits (dominance, arrogance, coldness, introversion, submissiveness, ingenuousness, warmth, and extraversion) in 257 subjects: 214 patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as FTD, SD, progressive non-fluent aphasia, Alzheimer’s disease, amnestic mild cognitive impairment, corticobasal degeneration, and progressive supranuclear palsy and 43 healthy elderly people. Measures of interpersonal traits were correlated with regional atrophy pattern using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analysis of structural MR images. Interpersonal traits mapped onto distinct brain regions depending on the degree to which they involved agency and affiliation. Interpersonal traits high in agency related to left dorsolateral prefrontal and left lateral frontopolar regions, whereas interpersonal traits high in affiliation related to right ventromedial prefrontal and right anteromedial temporal regions. Consistent with the existing literature on neural networks underlying social cognition, these results indicate that brain regions related to externally-focused, executive control-related processes underlie agentic interpersonal traits such as dominance, whereas brain regions related to internally-focused, emotion- and reward-related processes underlie affiliative interpersonal traits such as warmth. In addition, these findings indicate that interpersonal traits are subserved by complex neural networks rather than discrete anatomic areas.
neurodegenerative disease; personality; affiliation; agency; voxel-based morphometry
Despite decades of research, there is still disagreement regarding the nature of the information that is maintained in linguistic short-term memory (STM). Some authors argue for abstract phonological codes, whereas others argue for more general sensory traces. We assess these possibilities by investigating linguistic STM in two distinct sensory-motor modalities, spoken and signed language. Hearing bilingual participants (native in English and American Sign Language) performed equivalent STM tasks in both languages during fMRI scanning. Distinct, sensory-specific activations were seen during the maintenance phase of the task for spoken versus signed language. These regions have been previously shown to respond to non-linguistic sensory stimulation, suggesting that linguistic STM tasks recruit sensory-specific networks. However, maintenance-phase activations common to the two languages were also observed, implying some form of common process. We conclude that linguistic STM involves sensory-dependent neural networks, but suggest that sensory-independent neural networks may also exist.
speech; sign; language; fMRI; short-term memory
Viewing hand gestures during face-to-face communication affects speech perception and comprehension. Despite the visible role played by gesture in social interactions, relatively little is known about how the brain integrates hand gestures with co-occurring speech. Here we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and an ecologically valid paradigm to investigate how beat gesture – a fundamental type of hand gesture that marks speech prosody – might impact speech perception at the neural level. Subjects underwent fMRI while listening to spontaneously-produced speech accompanied by beat gesture, nonsense hand movement, or a still body; as additional control conditions, subjects also viewed beat gesture, nonsense hand movement, or a still body all presented without speech. Validating behavioral evidence that gesture affects speech perception, bilateral nonprimary auditory cortex showed greater activity when speech was accompanied by beat gesture than when speech was presented alone. Further, the left superior temporal gyrus/sulcus showed stronger activity when speech was accompanied by beat gesture than when speech was accompanied by nonsense hand movement. Finally, the right planum temporale was identified as a putative multisensory integration site for beat gesture and speech (i.e., here activity in response to speech accompanied by beat gesture was greater than the summed responses to speech alone and beat gesture alone), indicating that this area may be pivotally involved in synthesizing the rhythmic aspects of both speech and gesture. Taken together, these findings suggest a common neural substrate for processing speech and gesture, likely reflecting their joint communicative role in social interactions.
gestures; speech perception; auditory cortex; magnetic resonance imaging; nonverbal communication
Intramammary infection with Streptococcus uberis is a common cause of bovine mastitis throughout the world. Several procedures to differentiate S. uberis isolates have been proposed. However, all are prone to interlaboratory variation, and none is suitable for the description of the population structure. We describe here the development of a multilocus sequence typing (MLST) scheme for S. uberis to help address these issues. The sequences of seven housekeeping gene fragments from each of 160 United Kingdom milk isolates of S. uberis were determined. Between 5 and 17 alleles were obtained per locus, giving the potential to discriminate between 1.3 × 107 sequence types. In this study, 57 sequence types (STs) were identified. Statistical comparisons between the maximum-likelihood trees constructed by using the seven housekeeping gene fragments showed that the congruence was no better than that between each tree and trees of random topology, indicating there had been significant recombination within these loci. The population contained one major lineage (designated the ST-5 complex). This dominated the population, containing 24 STs and representing 112 isolates. The other 33 STs were not assigned to any clonal complex. All of the isolates in the ST-5 lineage carried hasA, a gene that is essential for capsule production. There was no clear association between ST or clonal complex and disease. The S. uberis MLST system offers researchers a valuable tool that allows further investigation of the population biology of this organism and insights into the epidemiology of this disease on a global scale.