Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a multi-system disorder that commonly affects cognition and behaviour. Verbal fluency impairments are consistently reported in ALS patients, and we aimed to investigate whether this deficit extends beyond the verbal domain. We further aimed to determine whether deficits are underpinned by a primary intrinsic response generation impairment (i.e., a global reduction across tasks), potentially related to apathy, or an inability to maintain responding over time (i.e., a ‘drop off’ pattern). Twenty-two ALS patients and 21 demographically-matched controls completed verbal and nonverbal fluency tasks (phonemic/semantic word fluency, design fluency, gesture fluency and ideational fluency), requiring the generation of responses over a specified time period. Fluency performance was analysed in terms of the overall number of novel items produced, as well as the number of items produced in the first ‘initiation’ and the remaining ‘maintenance’ time periods. ALS patients’ overall performance was not globally reduced across tasks. Patients were impaired only on meaningful gesture fluency, which requires the generation of gestures that communicate meaning (e.g., waving). On phonemic fluency, ALS patients showed a ‘drop off’ pattern of performance, where they had difficulty maintaining responding over time, but this pattern was not evident on the other fluency tasks. Apathy did not appear to be related to fluency performance. The selective meaningful gesture fluency deficit, in the context of preserved meaningless gesture fluency, highlights that the retrieval of action knowledge may be weakened in early ALS.

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This post is Copyright: Megan S. Barker,
Amelia Ceslis,
Rosemary Argall,
Pamela McCombe,
Robert D. Henderson,
Gail A. Robinson | November 24, 2023
Wiley: Journal of Neuropsychology: Table of Contents