Recent clinical and pathological studies have suggested that frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and corticobasal syndrome (CBS) show clinical and pathological overlap. We present four years of longitudinal clinical, cognitive and anatomical data in the case of a 56-year-old woman, AS, whose clinical picture evolved from FTLD to CBS. For the first three years, AS showed a progressive speech and language disorder compatible with a diagnosis of the nonfluent aphasia variant of FTLD. At year four, 10 years after her first symptom, AS developed the classical clinical signs of CBS, including alien limb phenomenon and dystonia. Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) applied to AS’s four annual scans showed progression of atrophy from the inferior posterior frontal gyrus, to the left insula and finally to the medial frontal lobe. This case demonstrates the clinical overlap between FTLD and CBS and shows that the two can appear in the same patient at different stages of the disease in relation to the progression of anatomical damage.
Many patients with primary progressive aphasia (PPA) are impaired in syntactic production. Because most previous studies of expressive syntax in PPA have relied on quantitative analysis of connected speech samples, which is a relatively unconstrained task, it is not well understood which specific syntactic structures are most challenging for these patients. We used an elicited syntactic production task to identify which syntactic structures pose difficulties for 31 patients with three variants of PPA: non-fluent/agrammatic, semantic and logopenic. Neurodegenerative and healthy age-matched participants were included as controls. As expected, non-fluent/agrammatic patients made the most syntactic errors. The structures that resulted in the most errors were constructions involving third person singular present agreement, and constructions involving embedded clauses. Deficits on this elicited production task were associated with atrophy of the left posterior inferior frontal gyrus.
syntax; production; primary progressive aphasia; voxel-based morphometry
► Patterns of cell loss in lvPPA remain asymmetrical over time. ► More anterior left hemisphere areas become involved over time. ► Right hemisphere regions become affected that mirror early left hemisphere change. ► Left hemisphere atrophy rates are greater than right hemisphere. ► Over time patients with lvPPA develop single word level processing deficits.
The logopenic variant of primary progressive aphasia (PPA) is characterised by impaired sentence repetition and word retrieval difficulties. Post mortem studies, amyloid imaging and CSF tau/Aβ measurements suggest Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology as the underlying cause. Relatively little is known about patterns of progression in patients with the logopenic variant of PPA. 21 patients (3 with post mortem confirmation of AD and 5 with positive amyloid PIB-PET scans) were studied with longitudinal T1-weighted MR imaging (mean interscan interval 1.2 years) using volumetric analysis and voxel-based morphometry (VBM). Baseline imaging showed asymmetrical (left greater than right) involvement of the posterior superior temporal and inferior parietal lobes as well as posterior cingulate and medial temporal lobes. The whole brain rate of volume loss was 2.0% per year with a greater rate of left hemisphere atrophy (2.3%/year) than right hemisphere (1.6%/year). Longitudinal VBM analysis showed increasing involvement of other areas in the left hemisphere (temporal, parietal, frontal and caudate) and atrophy of areas in the right hemisphere that had been involved earlier in the disease in the left hemisphere, particularly posterior cingulate/precuneus. With disease progression there was worsening of anomia, sentence repetition and sentence comprehension but consistent with the spread of imaging changes also deficits in single word comprehension, single word repetition and verbal memory. This study shows that the logopenic variant of PPA remains an asymmetrical disease, with spread through the left hemisphere language network but also involvement to a lesser degree of regions in the right hemisphere that mirror the earlier left hemisphere changes.
Primary progressive aphasia; Logopenic aphasia
Patients with anterior temporal lobe (ATL) lesions show semantic and lexical retrieval deficits, and the differential role of this area in the 2 processes is debated. Functional neuroimaging in healthy individuals has not clarified the matter because semantic and lexical processes usually occur simultaneously and automatically. Furthermore, the ATL is a region challenging for functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) due to susceptibility artifacts, especially at high fields. In this study, we established an optimized ATL-sensitive fMRI acquisition protocol at 4 T and applied an event-related paradigm to study the identification (i.e., association of semantic biographical information) of celebrities, with and without the ability to retrieve their proper names. While semantic processing reliably activated the ATL, only more posterior areas in the left temporal and temporal–parietal junction were significantly modulated by covert lexical retrieval. These results suggest that within a temporoparietal network, the ATL is relatively more important for semantic processing, and posterior language regions are relatively more important for lexical retrieval.
EPI optimization; famous faces; lexical retrieval; MRI; susceptibility artifacts
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
Brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have demonstrated regional patterns of brain macrostructural atrophy and white matter microstructural alterations separately in the three major subtypes of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), which includes behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), semantic dementia (SD), and progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA). This study was to investigate to what extent the pattern of white matter microstructural alterations in FTLD subtypes mirrors the pattern of brain atrophy, and to compare the ability of various diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) indices in characterizing FTLD patients, as well as to determine whether DTI measures provide greater classification power for FTLD than measuring brain atrophy. Twenty-five patients with FTLD (13 with bvFTD, 6 with SD, and 6 with PNFA) and 19 healthy age-matched control subjects underwent both structural MRI and DTI scans. Measurements of regional brain atrophy were based on T1-weighted MRI data and voxel-based morphometry. Measurements of regional white matter degradation were based on voxelwise as well as regions-of-interest tests of DTI variations, expressed as fractional anisotropy, axial diffusivity, and radial diffusivity. Compared to controls, bvFTD, SD, and PNFA patients each exhibited characteristic regional patterns of brain atrophy and white matter damage. DTI overall provided significantly greater accuracy for FTLD classification than brain atrophy. Moreover, radial diffusivity was more sensitive in assessing white matter damage in FTLD than other DTI indices. The findings suggest that DTI in general and radial diffusivity in particular are more powerful measures for the classification of FTLD patients from controls than brain atrophy.
Behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia; diffusion tensor imaging; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; multimodality MRI; progressive nonfluent aphasia; semantic dementia
In comparison to late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LO-AD, onset
> 65), early age-of-onset Alzheimer’s disease (EO-AD, onset<65
years) more often presents with language, visuospatial and/or executive
impairment, often occurring earlier than a progressive memory deficit. The
logopenic variant of primary progressive aphasia (lv-PPA) and the posterior
cortical atrophy (PCA) have recently been described as possible atypical
variants of EO-AD. Lv-PPA is characterized by isolated language deficit,
while PCA is characterized by predominant visuospatial deficits. Severe
hemispheric grey matter (GM) atrophy associated with EO-AD, lv-PPA and PCA
has been described, but regional patterns of white matter (WM) damage are
still poorly understood.
Using structural MRI and voxel-based morphometry, we investigated WM
damage in 16 EO-AD, 13 PCA, 10 lv-PPA, and 14 LO-AD patients at
presentation, and 72 age-matched controls.
In EO-AD, PCA and lv-PPA patients, WM atrophy was centered on lateral
temporal and parietal regions, including cingulum and posterior corpus
callosum. Compared to controls, lv-PPA patients showed a more severe left
parietal damage, and PCA showed a more severe occipital atrophy. Moreover,
EO-AD had greater cingulum atrophy compared with LO-AD. LO-AD showed WM
damage in medial temporal regions and less extensive hemispheric
Patterns of WM damage in EO-AD, lv-PPA and PCA are consistent with
the clinical syndromes and GM atrophy patterns. WM injury in AD atypical
variants may contribute to symptoms and disease pathogenesis.
Alzheimer’s disease; white matter damage; cerebral network; age of onset; VBM
To compare music recognition in patients with frontotemporal dementia, semantic dementia, Alzheimer disease, and controls and to evaluate the relationship between music recognition and brain volume.
Recognition of familiar music depends on several levels of processing. There are few studies about how patients with dementia recognize familiar music.
Subjects were administered tasks that assess pitch and melody discrimination, detection of pitch errors in familiar melodies, and naming of familiar melodies.
There were no group differences on pitch and melody discrimination tasks. However, patients with semantic dementia had considerable difficulty naming familiar melodies and also scored the lowest when asked to identify pitch errors in the same melodies. Naming familiar melodies, but not other music tasks, was strongly related to measures of semantic memory. Voxel-based morphometry analysis of brain MRI showed that difficulty in naming songs was associated with the bilateral temporal lobes and inferior frontal gyrus, whereas difficulty in identifying pitch errors in familiar melodies correlated with primarily the right temporal lobe.
The results support a view that the anterior temporal lobes play a role in familiar melody recognition, and that musical functions are affected differentially across forms of dementia.
Pitch; Melody; temporal lobe; auditory perception
The role of biomarkers in predicting pathological findings in the frontotemporal dementia (FTD) clinical spectrum disorders is still being explored. We present comprehensive, prospective longitudinal data for a 66 year old, right-handed female who met current criteria for the nonfluent/agrammatic variant of primary progressive aphasia (nfvPPA). She first presented with a 3-year history of progressive speech and language impairment mainly characterized by severe apraxia of speech. Neuropsychological and general motor functions remained relatively spared throughout the clinical course. Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) showed selective cortical atrophy of the left posterior inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and underlying insula that worsened over time, extending along the left premotor strip. Five years after her first evaluation, she developed mild memory impairment and underwent PET-FDG and PiB scans that showed left frontal hypometabolism and cortical amyloidosis. Three years later (11 years from first symptom), post-mortem histopathological evaluation revealed Pick’s disease, with severe degeneration of left IFG, mid-insula, and precentral gyrus. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) (CERAD frequent / Braak Stage V) was also detected. This patient demonstrates that biomarkers indicating brain amyloidosis should not be considered conclusive evidence that AD pathology accounts for a typical FTD clinical/anatomical syndrome.
Nonfluent primary progressive aphasia; PPA; apraxia of speech; Voxel-based morphometry; PiB-PET; Pick’s disease; Alzheimer disease; Frontotemporal dementia
Patients with corticobasal degeneration (CBD) pathology present with diverse clinical syndromes also associated with other neuropathologies, including corticobasal syndrome, progressive nonfluent aphasia, and an Alzheimer’s-type dementia. Some present with behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), though this subtype still requires more detailed phenotypic characterization. All patients with CBD pathology and clinical assessment were reviewed (N=17) and selected if they initially met criteria for bvFTD [bvFTD(CBD): N=5]. Available bvFTD patients with Pick’s [bvFTD(Pick’s): N=5] were selected as controls. Patients were also compared to healthy older controls [N=53] on neuropsychological and neuroimaging measures. At initial presentation, bvFTD(CBD) showed few neuropsychological or motor differences from bvFTD(Pick’s). Neuropsychiatrically, they were predominantly apathetic with less florid social disinhibition and eating disturbances, and were more anxious than bvFTD(Pick’s) patients. Voxel-based morphometry revealed similar patterns of predominantly frontal atrophy between bvFTD groups, though overall degree of atrophy was less severe in bvFTD(CBD), who also showed comparative preservation of the frontoinsular rim, with dorsal > ventral frontal atrophy, and sparing of temporal and parietal structures relative to bvFTD(Pick’s) patients. Despite remarkable overlap between the two patient types, bvFTD patients with underlying CBD pathology show subtle clinical features that may distinguish them from patients with Pick’s disease neuropathology.
Corticobasal degeneration; frontotemporal dementia; behavior; neuropsychiatry; neuropsychology; neuropathology
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
Based on the recent literature and collective experience, an international consortium developed revised guidelines for the diagnosis of behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia. The validation process retrospectively reviewed clinical records and compared the sensitivity of proposed and earlier criteria in a multi-site sample of patients with pathologically verified frontotemporal lobar degeneration. According to the revised criteria, ‘possible’ behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia requires three of six clinically discriminating features (disinhibition, apathy/inertia, loss of sympathy/empathy, perseverative/compulsive behaviours, hyperorality and dysexecutive neuropsychological profile). ‘Probable’ behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia adds functional disability and characteristic neuroimaging, while behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia ‘with definite frontotemporal lobar degeneration’ requires histopathological confirmation or a pathogenic mutation. Sixteen brain banks contributed cases meeting histopathological criteria for frontotemporal lobar degeneration and a clinical diagnosis of behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies or vascular dementia at presentation. Cases with predominant primary progressive aphasia or extra-pyramidal syndromes were excluded. In these autopsy-confirmed cases, an experienced neurologist or psychiatrist ascertained clinical features necessary for making a diagnosis according to previous and proposed criteria at presentation. Of 137 cases where features were available for both proposed and previously established criteria, 118 (86%) met ‘possible’ criteria, and 104 (76%) met criteria for ‘probable’ behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia. In contrast, 72 cases (53%) met previously established criteria for the syndrome (P < 0.001 for comparison with ‘possible’ and ‘probable’ criteria). Patients who failed to meet revised criteria were significantly older and most had atypical presentations with marked memory impairment. In conclusion, the revised criteria for behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia improve diagnostic accuracy compared with previously established criteria in a sample with known frontotemporal lobar degeneration. Greater sensitivity of the proposed criteria may reflect the optimized diagnostic features, less restrictive exclusion features and a flexible structure that accommodates different initial clinical presentations. Future studies will be needed to establish the reliability and specificity of these revised diagnostic guidelines.
behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia; diagnostic criteria; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; FTD; pathology
Individuals with semantic dementia (SD) have impaired autobiographical memory (AM), but the extent of the impairment has been controversial. According to one report (Westmacott et al., 2001), patient performance was better when visual cues were used instead of verbal cues; however, the visual cues used in that study (family photographs) provided more retrieval support than do the word cues that are typically used in AM studies. In the present study, we sought to disentangle the effects of retrieval support and cue modality.
We cued AMs of 5 SD patients and 5 controls with words, simple pictures, and odors. Memories were elicited from childhood, early adulthood, and recent adulthood; they were scored for level of detail and episodic specificity.
The patients were impaired across all time periods and stimulus modalities. Within the patient group, words and pictures were equally effective as cues (Friedman test; χ2 = 0.25, p = 0.61), whereas odors were less effective than both words and pictures (for words vs. odors, χ2 = 7.83, p = 0.005; for pictures vs. odors, χ2 = 6.18, p = 0.01). There was no evidence of a temporal gradient in either group (for SD patients, χ2 = 0.24, p = 0.89; for controls, χ2 < 2.07, p = 0.35).
Once the effect of retrieval support is equated across stimulus modalities, there is no evidence for an advantage of visual cues over verbal cues. The greater impairment for olfactory cues presumably reflects degeneration of anterior temporal regions that support olfactory memory.
AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL MEMORY; ODORS; SEMANTIC DEMENTIA
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
Most MRI studies of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) have assessed structural, perfusion and diffusion abnormalities separately while ignoring the relationships across imaging modalities. This paper aimed to assess brain gray (GM) and white matter (WM) abnormalities jointly to elucidate differences in abnormal MRI patterns between the diseases. Twenty AD, 20 FTD patients, and 21 healthy control subjects were imaged using a 4 Tesla MRI. GM loss and GM hypoperfusion were measured using high-resolution T1 and arterial spin labeling MRI (ASL-MRI). WM degradation was measured with diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Using a new analytical approach, the study found greater WM degenerations in FTD than AD at mild abnormality levels. Furthermore, the GM loss and WM degeneration exceeded the reduced perfusion in FTD whereas, in AD, structural and functional damages were similar. Joint assessments of multimodal MRI have potential value to provide new imaging markers for improved differential diagnoses between FTD and AD.
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
Modern cognitive neuroscientific theories and empirical evidence suggest that brain structures involved in movement may be related to action-related semantic knowledge. To test this hypothesis, we examined the naming of environmental sounds in patients with corticobasal degeneration (CBD) and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), two neurodegenerative diseases associated with cognitive and motor deficits. Subjects were presented with 56 environmental sounds: 28 of objects that required manipulation when producing the sound, and 28 that required no manipulation. Subjects were asked to provide the name of the object that produced the sound and also complete a sound-picture matching condition. Subjects included 33 individuals from four groups: CBD/PSP, Alzheimer disease, frontotemporal dementia, and normal controls. We hypothesized that CBD/PSP patients would exhibit impaired naming performance compared with controls, but the impairment would be most apparent when naming sounds associated with actions. We also explored neural correlates of naming environmental sounds using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) of brain MRI. As expected, CBD/PSP patients scored lower on environmental sounds naming (p<0.007) compared with the controls. In particular, the CBD/PSP patients scored the lowest when naming sounds of manipulable objects (p<0.05), but did not show deficits in naming sounds of non-manipulable objects. VBM analysis across all groups showed that performance in naming sounds of manipulable objects correlated with atrophy in the left premotor region, extending from area 6 to the middle and superior frontal gyrus. These results indicate an association between impairment in the retrieval of action-related names and the motor system, and suggest that difficulty in naming manipulable sounds may be related to atrophy in the premotor cortex. Our results support the hypothesis that retrieval of action-related semantic knowledge involves motor regions in the brain.
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.
To investigate the neural correlates of verbal and non-verbal semantic processing in neurodegenerative disease.
Semantic memory is often impaired in neurodegenerative disease. Neuropsychological and functional neuroimaging studies suggest that the semantic processing of verbal and non-verbal stimuli may depend on partially distinct brain networks.
We examined this possibility using voxel-based morphometry to correlate performance on verbal and non-verbal versions of a semantic association task with regional gray matter atrophy in 144 individuals with a variety of neurodegenerative diseases.
Results showed that, regardless of stimulus type, semantic processing correlated with atrophy in both temporal lobes. In addition, material-specific correlations were found in left temporal regions for verbal stimuli and the right fusiform gyrus for non-verbal stimuli.
These results provide evidence for a differential role of the left and right hemispheres in the extraction of semantic information from verbal and pictorial representations. Areas in the right inferior temporal lobe may be necessary to access structural descriptions of visually presented objects.
We have previously described patterns of neonatal brain injury that correlate with global cognitive and motor outcomes. We now examine, in survivors of neonatal encephalopathy (presumed secondary to hypoxia-ischemia) without functional motor deficits, whether the severity and neuroanatomical involvement on neonatal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are associated with domain-specific cognitive outcomes, verbal (VIQ) and performance IQ (PIQ), at four years of age.
In this prospective study, neonatal MRIs of 81 term infants with neonatal encephalopathy were scored for degree of injury in two common patterns: watershed-distribution (WS) and basal ganglia-distribution (BG). Follow-up evaluation at four years of age by examiners blinded to clinical history and MRIs included a five-point neuromotor score and the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence – Revised. In 64 subjects with no functional motor impairment, test of trend was used to examine the association of ordered WS and BG MRI scores with mean VIQ and PIQ.
Lower VIQs and PIQs were seen with increasing degree of injury on both WS and BG scales in univariate analyses (p≤0.05, all four analyses). When each MRI pattern score was adjusted for the other, only the association of decreasing VIQ with increasing WS injury remained significant (p=0.01; VIQ means across WS scores: 105–84). A suggestion of decreasing VIQ with increasing BG injury was also seen in the multivariate model (p=0.06; means across BG scores: 100–80), while no association was seen between PIQ and severity of injury in either MRI pattern.
In survivors of neonatal encephalopathy without functional motor deficits at 4 years of age, an increasing severity of watershed-distribution injury is associated with more impaired language-related abilities.
Hypoxia-ischemia; brain; Magnetic resonance imaging; Cognition; Language; Intelligence tests; Infant; newborn; Child
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
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and Alzheimer's disease are sometimes difficult to differentiate clinically because of overlapping symptoms. Using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) measurements of fractional anisotropy (FA) can be useful in distinguishing the different patterns of white matter degradation between the two dementias. In this study, we performed MRI scans in a 4 Tesla MRI machine including T1-weighted structural images and diffusion tensor images in 18 patients with FTD, 18 patients with Alzheimer's disease and 19 cognitively normal (CN) controls. FA was measured selectively in specific fibre tracts (including corpus callosum, cingulum, uncinate and corticospinal tracts) as well as globally in a voxel-by-voxel analysis. Patients with FTD were associated with reductions of FA in frontal and temporal regions including the anterior corpus callosum (P < 0.001), bilateral anterior (left P < 0.001; right P = 0.005), descending (left P < 0.001; right P = 0.003) cingulum tracts, and uncinate tracts (left P < 0.001; right P = 0.005), compared to controls. Patients with Alzheimer's disease were associated with reductions of FA in parietal, temporal and frontal regions including the left anterior (P = 0.003) and posterior (P = 0.002) cingulum tracts, bilateral descending cingulum tracts (P < 0.001) and left uncinate tracts (P < 0.001) compared to controls. When compared with Alzheimer's disease, FTD was associated with greater reductions of FA in frontal brain regions, whereas no region in Alzheimer's disease showed greater reductions of FA when compared to FTD. In conclusion, the regional patterns of anisotropy reduction in FTD and Alzheimer's disease compared to controls suggest a characteristic distribution of white matter degradation in each disease. Moreover, the white matter degradation seems to be more prominent in FTD than in Alzheimer's disease. Taken together, the results suggest that white matter degradation measured with DTI may improve the diagnostic differentiation between FTD and Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's disease; frontotemporal dementia; diffusion tensor imaging; diffusion tensor fibre tracking