The determinants of selective vulnerability in neurodegenerative diseases remain elusive. The asymmetric loss of neurons in primary progressive aphasia offers a unique setting for addressing this question. Although no factor can yet account for the selective vulnerability of the left hemisphere language network to degenerative diseases, a few themes are emerging as potential targets of further investigation.
Risk factors; dementia; learning disabilities; APOE; dyslexia; vasectomy
The simplest expression of episodic memory is the experience of familiarity, the isolated recognition that something has been encountered previously. Brain structures of the medial temporal lobe (MTL) make essential contributions to episodic memory, but the distinct contributions from each MTL structure to familiarity are debatable. Here we used specialized tests to assess recognition impairments and their relationship to MTL integrity in people with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI, n=19), people with probable Alzheimer's disease (AD; n=10), and age-matched individuals without any neurological disorder (n=20). Recognition of previously presented silhouette objects was tested in two formats—forced-choice recognition with four concurrent choices (one target and three foils) and yes/no recognition with individually presented targets and foils. Every foil was extremely similar to a corresponding target, such that forced-choice recognition could be based on differential familiarity among the choices, whereas yes/no recognition necessitated additional memory and decision factors. Only yes/no recognition was impaired in the aMCI group, whereas both forced-choice and yes/no recognition were impaired in the AD group. Magnetic resonance imaging showed differential brain atrophy, as MTL volume was reduced in the AD group but not in the aMCI group. Pulsed arterial spin-labeled scans demonstrated that MTL blood flow was abnormally increased in aMCI, which could indicate physiological dysfunction prior to the emergence of significant atrophy. Regression analyses with data from all patients revealed that regional patterns of MTL integrity were differentially related to forced-choice and yes/no recognition. Smaller perirhinal cortex volume was associated with lower forced-choice recognition accuracy, but not with lower yes/no recognition accuracy. Instead, smaller hippocampal volumes were associated with lower yes/no recognition accuracy. In sum, familiarity memory can be specifically assessed using the forced-choice recognition test, it declines later than other MTL-dependent memory functions as AD progresses, and it has distinct anatomical substrates.
familiarity; episodic memory; recognition memory; amnestic mild cognitive impairment; Alzheimer's disease
Phonological processing deficits are characteristic of both the agrammatic and logopenic subtypes of primary progressive aphasia (PPA-G and PPA-L). However, it is an open question which substages of phonological processing (i.e., phonological word form retrieval, phonological encoding) are impaired in these subtypes of PPA, as well as how phonological processing deficits contribute to anomia. In the present study, participants with PPA-G (n=7), PPA-L (n=7), and unimpaired controls (n=17) named objects as interfering written words (phonologically related/unrelated) were presented at different stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) of 0, +100, +300, and +500 ms. Phonological facilitation (PF) effects (faster naming times with phonologically related interfering words) were found for the controls and PPA-L group only at SOA=0 and +100 ms. However, the PPA-G group exhibited protracted PF effects (PF at SOA=0, +100, and +300 ms). These results may reflect deficits in phonological encoding in PPA-G, but not in PPA-L, supporting the neuropsychological reality of this substage of phonological processing and the distinction between these two PPA subtypes.
primary progressive aphasia; anomia; phonological processing; picture-word interference paradigm
Hexanucleotide repeat expansions in chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) are causative for frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and motor neuron disease (MND). Substantial phenotypic heterogeneity has been described in patients with these expansions. We set out to identify genetic modifiers of disease risk, age at onset, and survival after onset that may contribute to this clinical variability.
We examined a cohort of 330 C9ORF72 expansion carriers and 374 controls. In these individuals, we assessed variants previously implicated in FTD and/or MND; 36 variants were included in our analysis. After adjustment for multiple testing, our analysis revealed three variants significantly associated with age at onset (rs7018487 [UBAP1; p-value = 0.003], rs6052771 [PRNP; p-value = 0.003], and rs7403881 [MT-Ie; p-value = 0.003]), and six variants significantly associated with survival after onset (rs5848 [GRN; p-value = 0.001], rs7403881 [MT-Ie; p-value = 0.001], rs13268953 [ELP3; p-value = 0.003], the epsilon 4 allele [APOE; p-value = 0.004], rs12608932 [UNC13A; p-value = 0.003], and rs1800435 [ALAD; p-value = 0.003]).
Variants identified through this study were previously reported to be involved in FTD and/or MND, but we are the first to describe their effects as potential disease modifiers in the presence of a clear pathogenic mutation (i.e. C9ORF72 repeat expansion). Although validation of our findings is necessary, these variants highlight the importance of protein degradation, antioxidant defense and RNA-processing pathways, and additionally, they are promising targets for the development of therapeutic strategies and prognostic tests.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1750-1326-9-38) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
C9ORF72; Frontotemporal dementia; Motor neuron disease; Genetic modifier; Repeat expansion
This study examines the anatomical correlates of naming vs recognizing faces using a novel measure that utilizes culturally relevant and age-appropriate items, the Northwestern University Famous Faces (NUFFACE) Test, in primary progressive aphasia (PPA), a syndrome characterized by progressive language deficits and associated with cortical atrophy in areas important for word and object representations.
NUFFACE Test performance of 27 controls (mean age 62.3 years) was compared with that of 30 patients with PPA (mean age 62 years). Associations between NUFFACE Test performance and cortical thickness measures were quantified within the PPA group.
Patients with PPA displayed significant impairment on the NUFFACE Test, demonstrating that it is a useful measure of famous-face identification for individuals with relatively young-onset dementias. Despite widespread distribution of atrophy in the PPA group, face naming impairments were correlated with atrophy of the left anterior temporal lobe while face recognition impairments were correlated with bitemporal atrophy.
In addition to their clinical relevance for highlighting the distinction between face naming and recognition impairments in individuals with young-onset dementia, these findings add new insights into the dissociable clinico-anatomical substrates of lexical retrieval and object knowledge.
The frontal aslant tract is a direct pathway connecting Broca’s region with the anterior cingulate and pre-supplementary motor area. This tract is left lateralized in right-handed subjects, suggesting a possible role in language. However, there are no previous studies that have reported an involvement of this tract in language disorders. In this study we used diffusion tractography to define the anatomy of the frontal aslant tract in relation to verbal fluency and grammar impairment in primary progressive aphasia. Thirty-five patients with primary progressive aphasia and 29 control subjects were recruited. Tractography was used to obtain indirect indices of microstructural organization of the frontal aslant tract. In addition, tractography analysis of the uncinate fasciculus, a tract associated with semantic processing deficits, was performed. Damage to the frontal aslant tract correlated with performance in verbal fluency as assessed by the Cinderella story test. Conversely, damage to the uncinate fasciculus correlated with deficits in semantic processing as assessed by the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test. Neither tract correlated with grammatical or repetition deficits. Significant group differences were found in the frontal aslant tract of patients with the non-fluent/agrammatic variant and in the uncinate fasciculus of patients with the semantic variant. These findings indicate that degeneration of the frontal aslant tract underlies verbal fluency deficits in primary progressive aphasia and further confirm the role of the uncinate fasciculus in semantic processing. The lack of correlation between damage to the frontal aslant tract and grammar deficits suggests that verbal fluency and grammar processing rely on distinct anatomical networks.
aphasia; white matter; language; tractography; dementia; freesurfer; frontal aslant tract; tractography
This monograph presents the pediatric portion of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Toolbox Cognition Battery (CB) of the NIH Toolbox for the Assessment of Neurological and Behavioral Function. The NIH Toolbox is an initiative of the Neuroscience Blueprint, a collaborative framework through which 16 NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices jointly support neuroscience-related research, to accelerate discoveries and reduce the burden of nervous system disorders. The CB is one of four modules that measure cognitive, emotional, sensory, and motor health across the lifespan. The CB is unique in its continuity across childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, and old age, and in order to help create a common currency among disparate studies, it is also available at low cost to researchers for use in large-scale longitudinal and epidemiologic studies. This chapter describes the evolution of the CB; methods for selecting cognitive subdomains and instruments; the rationale for test design; and a validation study in children and adolescents, ages 3–15 years. Subsequent chapters feature detailed discussions of each test measure and its psychometric properties (Chapters 2–6), the factor structure of the test battery (Chapter 7), the effects of age and education on composite test scores (Chapter 8), and a final summary and discussion (Chapter 9). As the chapters in this monograph demonstrate, the CB has excellent psychometric properties, and the validation study provided evidence for the increasing differentiation of cognitive abilities with age.
The NIH Toolbox Cognitive Function Battery (CFB) includes 7 tests covering 8 cognitive abilities considered to be important in adaptive functioning across the lifespan (from early childhood to late adulthood). Here we present data on psychometric characteristics in children (N = 208; ages 3–15 years) of a total summary score and composite scores reflecting two major types of cognitive abilities: “crystallized” (more dependent upon past learning experiences) and “fluid” (capacity for new learning and information processing in novel situations). Both types of cognition are considered important in everyday functioning, but are thought to be differently affected by brain health status throughout life, from early childhood through older adulthood. All three Toolbox composite scores showed excellent test-retest reliability, robust developmental effects across the childhood age range considered here, and strong correlations with established, “gold standard” measures of similar abilities. Additional preliminary evidence of validity includes significant associations between all three Toolbox composite scores and maternal reports of children’s health status and school performance.
The demand for rapidly administered, sensitive, and reliable cognitive assessments that are specifically designed for identifying individuals in the earliest stages of cognitive decline (and to measure subtle change over time) has escalated as the emphasis in Alzheimer’s disease clinical research has shifted from clinical diagnosis and treatment toward the goal of developing presymptomatic neuroprotective therapies. To meet these changing clinical requirements, cognitive measures or tailored batteries of tests must be validated and determined to be fit-for-use for the discrimination between cognitively healthy individuals and persons who are experiencing very subtle cognitive changes that likely signal the emergence of early mild cognitive impairment. We sought to collect and review data systematically from a wide variety of (mostly computer-administered) cognitive measures, all of which are currently marketed or distributed with the claims that these instruments are sensitive and reliable for the early identification of disease or, if untested for this purpose, are promising tools based on other variables. The survey responses for 16 measures/batteries are presented in brief in this review; full survey responses and summary tables are archived and publicly available on the Campaign to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease by 2020 Web site (http://pad2020.org). A decision tree diagram highlighting critical decision points for selecting measures to meet varying clinical trials requirements has also been provided. Ultimately, the survey questionnaire, framework, and decision guidelines provided in this review should remain as useful aids for the evaluation of any new or updated sets of instruments in the years to come.
Cognition; Neuropsychological assessment; Alzheimer’s disease; Mild cognitive impairment; Clinical trials
Mutations in C9ORF72 resulting in expanded hexanucleotide repeats were recently reported to be the underlying genetic abnormality in chromosome 9p-linked frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TAR DNA-binding protein of 43 kD (TDP-43) proteinopathy (FTLD-TDP), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and frontotemporal lobar degeneration with motor neuron disease (FTLD-MND). Several subsequent publications described the neuropathology as being similar to that seen in cases of FTLD-TDP and ALS without C9ORF72 mutations, except that cases with mutations have p62 and ubiquitin positive, TDP-43 negative inclusions in cerebellum, hippocampus, neocortex, and basal ganglia. The identity of this protein is as yet unknown, and its significance is unclear. With the goal of potentially uncovering the significance of these TDP-43 negative inclusions, we compared the clinical, pathologic, and genetic characteristics in 5 cases of FTLD-TDP and FTLD-MND with C9ORF72 mutations to 20 cases without mutations. We confirmed the apparent specificity of p62 positive, TDP-43 negative inclusions in cerebellum, hippocampus, cortex, and basal ganglia to FTLD with C9ORF72 mutations. p62 positive, TDP-43 negative inclusions in hippocampus correlated with hippocampal atrophy, but no additional correlations were uncovered. However, although ambiguity of TDP sub-typing has previously been reported in cases with C9ORF72 mutations, this is the first report to show that although most FTLD cases with C9ORF72 mutations were TDP type B, some of the pathologic characteristics in these cases were more similar to TDP types A and C than to TDP type B FTLD cases without mutations. These features include greater cortical and hippocampal atrophy, greater ventricular dilatation, more neuronal loss and gliosis in temporal lobe and striatum, and TDP-43 positive fine neuritic profiles in the hippocampus in FTLD cases with C9ORF72 mutations compared to FTLD-TDP type B cases without mutations, implying that the C9ORF72 mutation modifies the pathologic phenotype of FTLD-TDP type B.
C9ORF72; repeat expansion; p62; ubiquitin; TDP-43; FTLD; ALS
Cognition is 1 of 4 domains measured by the NIH Toolbox for the Assessment of Neurological and Behavioral Function (NIH-TB), and complements modules testing motor function, sensation, and emotion. On the basis of expert panels, the cognition subdomains identified as most important for health, success in school and work, and independence in daily functioning were Executive Function, Episodic Memory, Language, Processing Speed, Working Memory, and Attention. Seven measures were designed to tap constructs within these subdomains. The instruments were validated in English, in a sample of 476 participants ranging in age from 3 to 85 years, with representation from both sexes, 3 racial/ethnic categories, and 3 levels of education. This report describes the development of the Cognition Battery and presents results on test-retest reliability, age effects on performance, and convergent and discriminant construct validity. The NIH-TB Cognition Battery is intended to serve as a brief, convenient set of measures to supplement other outcome measures in epidemiologic and longitudinal research and clinical trials. With a computerized format and national standardization, this battery will provide a “common currency” among researchers for comparisons across a wide range of studies and populations.
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
To investigate cognitive components and mechanisms of learning and memory in primary progressive aphasia (PPA) using a simple clinical measure, the Three Words Three Shapes Test (3W3S).
PPA patients can complain of memory loss and may perform poorly in standard tests of memory. The extent to which these signs and symptoms reflect dysfunction of the left hemisphere language versus limbic memory network remains unknown.
3W3S data from 26 patients with a clinical diagnosis of PPA were compared with previously published data from patients with typical dementia of the Alzheimer type (DAT) and cognitively healthy elders.
PPA patients showed two bottlenecks in new learning. First, they were impaired in the effortless (but not effortful) on-line encoding of verbal (but not non-verbal) items. Second, they were impaired in the retrieval (but not retention) of verbal (but not non-verbal) items. In contrast, DAT patients had impairments also in effortful on-line encoding and retention of verbal and nonverbal items.
PPA selectively interferes with spontaneous on-line encoding and subsequent retrieval of verbal information. This combination may underlie poor memory test performance and is likely to reflect the dysfunction of the left hemisphere language rather than medial temporal memory network.
The Northwestern University SuperAging Project recruits community dwellers over the age of 80 who have unusually high performance on tests of episodic memory. In a previous report, a small cohort of SuperAgers was found to have higher cortical thickness on structural MRI than a group of age-matched but cognitively average peers. SuperAgers also displayed a patch of ACC where cortical thickness was higher than in 50- to 60-year-old younger cognitively healthy adults. In additional analyses, some SuperAgers had unusually low densities of age-related Alzheimer pathology and unusually high numbers of von Economo neurons in the anterior cingulate gyrus. SuperAgers were also found to have a lower frequency of the ε4 allele of apolipoprotein E than the general population. These preliminary results show that above-average memory capacity can be encountered in advanced age. They also offer clues to potential biological factors that may promote resistance to age-related involutional changes in the structure and function of the brain.
The paper reports findings derived from three experiments examining syntactic and morphosyntactic processing in individuals with agrammatic and logopenic variants of primary progressive aphasia (PPA-G and PPA-L, respectively) and stroke-induced agrammatic and anomic aphasia (StrAg and StrAn, respectively). We examined comprehension and production of canonical and noncanonical sentence structures and production of tensed and nontensed verb forms using constrained tasks in experiments 1 and 2 using the Northwestern Assessment of Verbs and Sentences (NAVS ) and the Northwestern Assessment of Verb Inflection (NAVI, Thompson and Lee, experimental version), respectively. Experiment 3 examined free narrative samples, focusing on syntactic and morphosyntactic measures, i.e. production of grammatical sentences, noun to verb ratio, open-class to closed-class word production ratio, and the production of correctly inflected verbs. Results indicate that the two agrammatic groups (i.e., PPA-G and StrAg) pattern alike on syntactic and morphosyntactic measures, showing more impaired noncanonical compared to canonical sentence comprehension and production and greater difficulties producing tensed compared to nontensed verb forms. Their spontaneous speech also contained significantly fewer grammatical sentences and correctly inflected verbs, and they produced a greater proportion of nouns compared to verbs, than healthy speakers. In contrast, PPA-L and StrAn individuals did not display these deficits, and performed significantly better than the agrammatic groups on these measures. The findings suggest that agrammatism, whether induced by degenerative disease or stroke, is associated with characteristic deficits in syntactic and morphosyntactic processing. We therefore recommend that linguistically sophisticated tests and narrative analysis procedures be used to systematically evaluate the linguistic ability of individuals with PPA, contributing to our understanding of the language impairments of different PPA variants.
It is “normal” for old age to be associated with gradual decline in memory and brain mass. However, there are anecdotal reports of individuals who seem immune to age-related memory impairment, but these individuals have not been studied systematically. This study sought to establish that such cognitive SuperAgers exist and to determine if they were also resistant to age-related loss of cortical brain volume. SuperAgers were defined as individuals over age 80 with episodic memory performance at least as good as normative values for 50- to 65-year-olds. Cortical morphometry of the SuperAgers was compared to two cognitively normal cohorts: age-matched elderly and 50- to 65-year-olds. The SuperAgers’ cerebral cortex was significantly thicker than their healthy age-matched peers and displayed no atrophy compared to the 50- to 65-year-old healthy group. Unexpectedly, a region of left anterior cingulate cortex was significantly thicker in the SuperAgers than in both elderly and middle-aged controls. Our findings identify cognitive and neuroanatomical features of a cohort that appears to resist average age-related changes of memory capacity and cortical volume. A better understanding of the underlying factors promoting this potential trajectory of unusually successful aging may provide insight for preventing age-related cognitive impairments or the more severe changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease. (JINS, 2012, 18, 1081–1085)
Structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); Neuropsychology; Dementia; Freesurfer; Elderly; Neuroimaging
Emerging evidence suggests the relationship between health literacy and health outcomes could be explained by cognitive abilities.
To investigate to what degree cognitive skills explain associations between health literacy, performance on common health tasks, and functional health status.
Two face-to-face, structured interviews spaced a week apart with three health literacy assessments and a comprehensive cognitive battery measuring ‘fluid’ abilities necessary to learn and apply new information, and ‘crystallized’ abilities such as background knowledge.
An academic general internal medicine practice and three federally qualified health centers in Chicago, Illinois.
Eight hundred and eighty-two English-speaking adults ages 55 to 74.
Health literacy was measured using the Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine (REALM), Test of Functional Health Literacy in Adults (TOFHLA), and Newest Vital Sign (NVS). Performance on common health tasks were globally assessed and categorized as 1) comprehending print information, 2) recalling spoken information, 3) recalling multimedia information, 4) dosing and organizing medication, and 5) healthcare problem-solving.
Health literacy measures were strongly correlated with fluid and crystallized cognitive abilities (range: r = 0.57 to 0.77, all p < 0.001). Lower health literacy and weaker fluid and crystallized abilities were associated with poorer performance on healthcare tasks. In multivariable analyses, the association between health literacy and task performance was substantially reduced once fluid and crystallized cognitive abilities were entered into models (without cognitive abilities: β = −28.9, 95 % Confidence Interval (CI) -31.4 to −26.4, p; with cognitive abilities: β = −8.5, 95 % CI −10.9 to −6.0).
Cross-sectional analyses, English-speaking, older adults only.
The most common measures used in health literacy studies are detecting individual differences in cognitive abilities, which may predict one’s capacity to engage in self-care and achieve desirable health outcomes. Future interventions should respond to all of the cognitive demands patients face in managing health, beyond reading and numeracy.
health literacy; cognitive abilities; health tasks; patient-reported outcomes; physical health; mental health
Pancreatitis is a complex, progressively destructive inflammatory disorder. Alcohol was long thought to be the primary causative agent, but genetic contributions have been of interest since the discovery that rare PRSS1, CFTR, and SPINK1 variants were associated with pancreatitis risk. We now report two significant genome-wide associations identified and replicated at PRSS1-PRSS2 (1×10-12) and x-linked CLDN2 (p < 1×10-21) through a two-stage genome-wide study (Stage 1, 676 cases and 4507 controls; Stage 2, 910 cases and 4170 controls). The PRSS1 variant affects susceptibility by altering expression of the primary trypsinogen gene. The CLDN2 risk allele is associated with atypical localization of claudin-2 in pancreatic acinar cells. The homozygous (or hemizygous male) CLDN2 genotype confers the greatest risk, and its alleles interact with alcohol consumption to amplify risk. These results could partially explain the high frequency of alcohol-related pancreatitis in men – male hemizygous frequency is 0.26, female homozygote is 0.07.
Primary progressive aphasia is a neurodegenerative syndrome characterized by gradual dissolution of language but relative sparing of other cognitive domains, especially memory. It is associated with asymmetric atrophy in the language-dominant hemisphere (usually left), and differs from typical Alzheimer-type dementia where amnesia is the primary deficit. Various pathologies have been reported, including the tangles and plaques of Alzheimer’s disease. Identification of Alzheimer pathology in these aphasic patients is puzzling since tangles and related neuronal loss in Alzheimer’s disease typically emerge in memory-related structures such as entorhinal cortex and spread to language-related neocortex later in the disease. Furthermore, Alzheimer pathology is typically symmetric. How can a predominantly limbic and symmetric pathology cause the primary progressive aphasia phenotype, characterized by relative preservation of memory and asymmetric predilection for the language-dominant hemisphere? Initial investigations into the possibility that Alzheimer pathology displays an atypical distribution in primary progressive aphasia yielded inconclusive results. The current study was based on larger groups of patients with either primary progressive aphasia or a typical amnestic dementia. Alzheimer pathology was the principal diagnosis in all cases. The goal was to determine whether Alzheimer pathology had clinically-concordant, and hence different distributions in these two phenotypes. Stereological counts of tangles and plaques revealed greater leftward asymmetry for tangles in primary progressive aphasia but not in the amnestic Alzheimer-type dementia (P < 0.05). Five of seven aphasics had more leftward tangle asymmetry in all four neocortical regions analysed, whereas this pattern was not seen in any of the predominantly amnestic cases. One aphasic case displayed higher right-hemisphere tangle density despite greater left-hemisphere hypoperfusion and atrophy during life. Although there were more tangles in the memory-related entorhinal cortex than in language-related neocortical areas in both phenotypes (P < 0.0001), the ratio of neocortical-to-entorhinal tangles was significantly higher in the aphasic cases (P = 0.034). Additionally, overall numbers of tangles and plaques were greater in the aphasic than amnestic cases (P < 0.05), especially in neocortical areas. No significant hemispheric asymmetry was found in plaque distribution, reinforcing the conclusion that tangles have greater clinical concordance than plaques in the spectrum of Alzheimer pathologies. The presence of left-sided tangle predominance and higher neocortical-to-entorhinal tangle ratio in primary progressive aphasia establishes clinical concordance of Alzheimer pathology with the aphasic phenotype. The one case with reversed asymmetry, however, suggests that these concordant clinicopathological relationships are not universal and that individual primary progressive aphasia cases with Alzheimer pathology exist where distributions of plaques and tangles do not account for the observed phenotype.
neurodegenerative disorders; primary progressive aphasia; AD pathology; hemispheric differences; stereology
Word class naming deficits are commonly seen in aphasia resulting from stroke (StrAph) and primary progressive aphasia (PPA), with differential production of nouns (objects) and verbs (actions) found based on StrAph type or PPA variant for some individuals. Studies to date, however, have not compared word class naming (or comprehension) ability in the two aphasic disorders. In addition, there are no available measures for testing word class deficits, which control for important psycholinguistic variables across language domains. This study examined noun and verb production and comprehension in individuals with StrAph and PPA using a new test, the Northwestern Naming Battery (NNB; Thompson & Weintraub, experimental version), developed explicitly for this purpose. In addition, we tested verb type effects, based on verb argument structure characteristics, which also is addressed by the NNB.
Fifty-two participants with StrAph (33 agrammatic, Broca’s (StrAg); 19 anomic (StrAn)) and 28 PPA (10 agrammatic (PPA-G); 14 logopenic (PPA-L); 4 semantic (PPA-S)) were included in the study. Nouns and verbs were tested in the Confrontation Naming and Auditory Comprehension subtests of the NNB, with scores used to compute noun to verb ratios as well as performance by verb type. Performance patterns within and across StrAph and PPA groups were then examined. The external validity of the NNB also was tested by comparing (a) NNB Noun Naming scores to the Boston Naming Test (BNT; Kaplan, Goodglass, & Weintraub, 1983) and Western Aphasia Battery (WAB-R, Kertesz, 2007) Noun Naming subtest scores, (b) NNB Verb Naming scores to the Boston Diagnostic Aphasia Examination (BDAE; Goodglass, Kaplan & Barresi, 2001) Action Naming score (for StrAph participants only), and (c) NNB Comprehension subtest scores to WAB-R Auditory Comprehension subtest scores.
Outcomes and Results
Both agrammatic (StrAg and PPA-G) groups showed significantly greater difficulty producing verbs compared to nouns, but no comprehension impairment for either word class. Whereas, three of the four PPA-S participants showed poorer noun compared to verb production, as well as comprehension. However, neither the StrAn or PPA-L participants showed significant differences between the two word classes in production or comprehension. In addition, similar to the agrammatic participants, the StrAn participants showed a significant transitivity effect, producing intransitive (one-argument) verbs with greater accuracy than transitive (two- and three-argument) verbs. However, no transitivity effects were found for the PPA-L or PPA-S participants. There were significant correlations between NNB scores and all external validation measures.
These data indicate that the NNB is sensitive to word class deficits in stroke and neurodegenerative aphasia. This is important both clinically for treatment planning and theoretically to inform both psycholinguistic and neural models of language processing.
primary progressive aphasia (PPA); word class deficits; naming deficit patterns; verb argument structure production
The characteristics of early and mild disease in primary progressive aphasia are poorly understood. This report is based on 25 patients with aphasia quotients >85%, 13 of whom were within 2 years of symptom onset. Word-finding and spelling deficits were the most frequent initial signs. Diagnostic imaging was frequently negative and initial consultations seldom reached a correct diagnosis. Functionality was preserved, so that the patients fit current criteria for single-domain mild cognitive impairment. One goal was to determine whether recently published classification guidelines could be implemented at these early and mild disease stages. The quantitative testing of the recommended core and ancillary criteria led to the classification of ∼80% of the sample into agrammatic, logopenic and semantic variants. Biological validity of the resultant classification at these mild impairment stages was demonstrated by clinically concordant cortical atrophy patterns. A two-dimensional template based on orthogonal mapping of word comprehension and grammaticality provided comparable accuracy and led to a flexible road map that can guide the classification process quantitatively or qualitatively. Longitudinal evaluations of initially unclassifiable patients showed that the semantic variant can be preceded by a prodromal stage of focal left anterior temporal atrophy during which prominent anomia exists without word comprehension or object recognition impairments. Patterns of quantitative tests justified the distinction of grammar from speech abnormalities and the desirability of using the ‘agrammatic’ designation exclusively for loss of grammaticality, regardless of fluency or speech status. Two patients with simultaneous impairments of grammatical sentence production and word comprehension displayed focal atrophy of the inferior frontal gyrus and the anterior temporal lobe. These patients represent a fourth variant of ‘mixed’ primary progressive aphasia. Quantitative criteria were least effective in the distinction of the agrammatic from the logopenic variant and left considerable latitude to clinical judgement. The widely followed recommendation to wait for 2 years of relatively isolated and progressive language impairment before making a definitive diagnosis of primary progressive aphasia has promoted diagnostic specificity, but has also diverted attention away from early and mild disease. This study shows that this recommendation is unnecessarily restrictive and that quantitative guidelines can be implemented for the valid root diagnosis and subtyping of mildly impaired patients within 2 years of symptom onset. An emphasis on early diagnosis will promote a better characterization of the disease stages where therapeutic interventions are the most likely to succeed.
aphasia; logopenic; semantic; agrammatic; anomic
Many studies have investigated factors associated with the rate of decline and evolution from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) dementia in elderly patients. In this analysis we compared the rates of decline to dementia estimated from three common global measures of cognition: Mini Mental Status Examination (MMSE) score, Clinical Dementia Rating sum of boxes score (CDR-SB), and a neuropsychological tests composite score (CS).
A total of 2,899 subjects in the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center Uniform Data Set age 65+ years diagnosed with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) were included in this analysis. Population-averaged decline to dementia rates were estimated and compared for standardized MMSE, CDR-SB, and Composite scores using Generalized Estimating Equations (GEE). Associations between rate of decline and several potential correlates of decline were also calculated and compared across measures.
The CDR-SB had the steepest estimated slope, with a decline of .49 standard deviations (SD) per year, followed by the MMSE with .22 SD/year, and finally the CS with .07 SD/year. The rate of decline of the three measures differed significantly in a global test for differences (p<.0001). Age at visit, BMI at visit, APOE ε4 allele status, and race (black vs. white) had significantly different relationships with rate of decline in a global test for difference among the three measures.
These results suggest that both the rate of decline and the effects of AD risk factors on decline to dementia can vary depending on the evaluative measure used.
neuropsychological testing; Alzheimer’s Disease; cognitive assessment; aging
This study examined the time course of object naming in 21 individuals with primary progressive aphasia (PPA) (8 agrammatic (PPA-G); 13 logopenic (PPA-G)) and healthy age-matched speakers (n=17) using a semantic interference paradigm with related and unrelated interfering stimuli presented at stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) of −1000, −500, −100 and 0 ms. Results showed semantic interference (SI) (i.e. significantly slower RTs in related compared to unrelated conditions) for all groups at −500, −100 and 0 ms, indicating timely spreading activation to semantic competitors. However, both PPA groups showed a greater magnitude of SI than normal across SOAs. The PPA-L group and six PPA-G participants also evinced SI at −1000 ms, suggesting an abnormal time course of semantic interference resolution, and concomitant left hemisphere cortical atrophy in brain regions associated with semantic processing. These subtle semantic mapping impairments in non-semantic variants of PPA may contribute to the anomia of these patients.
primary progressive aphasia; semantic interference; word interference paradigms; naming deficits in primary progressive aphasia; Free Surfer; cortical thickness
Classical aphasiology, based on the study of stroke sequelae, fuses speech fluency and grammatical ability. Nonfluent (Broca's) aphasia often is accompanied by agrammatism; whereas in the fluent aphasias grammatical deficits are not typical. The assumption that a similar relationship exists in primary progressive aphasia (PPA) has led to the dichotomization of this syndrome into fluent and nonfluent subtypes.
This study compared elements of fluency and grammatical production in the narrative speech of individuals with PPA to determine if they can be dissociated from one another.
Speech samples from 37 individuals with PPA, clinically assigned to agrammatic (N=11), logopenic (N=20) and semantic (N=6) subtypes, and 13 cognitively healthy control participants telling the “Cinderella Story” were analyzed for fluency (i.e., words per minute (WPM) and mean length of utterance in words (MLU-W)) and grammaticality (i.e., the proportion of grammatically correct sentences, open-to-closed-class word ratio, noun-to-verb ratio, and correct production of verb inflection, noun morphology, and verb argument structure.) Between group differences were analyzed for each variable. Correlational analyses examined the relation between WPM and each grammatical variable, and an off-line measure of sentence production.
Outcomes And Results
Agrammatic and logopenic groups both had lower scores on the fluency measures and produced significantly fewer grammatical sentences than did semantic and control groups. However, only the agrammatic group evinced significantly impaired production of verb inflection and verb argument structure. In addition, some semantic participants showed abnormal open-to-closed and noun-to-verb ratios in narrative speech. When the sample was divided on the basis of fluency, all the agrammatic participants fell in the nonfluent category. The logopenic participants varied in fluency but those with low fluency showed variable performance on measures of grammaticality. Correlational analyses and scatter plots comparing fluency and each grammatical variable revealed dissociations within PPA participants, with some nonfluent participants showing normal grammatical skill.
Grammatical production is a complex construct comprised of correct usage of several language components, each of which can be selectively affected by disease. This study demonstrates that individuals with PPA show dissociations between fluency and grammatical production in narrative speech. Grammatical ability, and its relationship to fluency, varies from individual to individual, and from one variant of PPA to another, and can even be found in individuals with semantic PPA in whom a fluent aphasia is usually thought to accompany preserved ability to produce grammatical utterances.
This study provides empirical evidence on whether polypharmacy and potentially inappropriate prescription medications (PIRx, as defined by the 2003 Beers criteria) increase the likelihood of functional decline among community-dwelling older adults with dementia. Data were from the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center, Uniform Data Set (9/2005–9/2009). Study sample included 1994 community-dwelling participants aged ≥65 with dementia at baseline. Results showed that participants having ≥5 medications were more likely to have functional decline than participants having <5 medications. However, the increased likelihood was only apparent in participants who did not have PIRx. Instead of magnifying the associated risk as hypothesized, PIRx appeared to have a protective effect albeit marginally statistically significant. Therefore, increased medication burden may be associated with functional decline in community-dwelling older adults with dementia who are not prescribed with PIRx. More research is needed to understand which classes of medications have the most deleterious effect on this population.
Beers criteria; Alzheimer’s disease; prescription drug utilization