Neuropsychology, Vol 37(7), Oct 2023, 790-800; doi:10.1037/neu0000836Objective: Prior to evidence of episodic memory decline, a lengthy preclinical phase of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) exists characterized by the build-up of tau pathology within extrahippocampal structures. Semantic memory, also impaired in AD, has been linked to degradation within these earliest affected areas. This study aimed to assess the utility of performance discrepancies between letter and category verbal fluency tasks to detect neuronal loss in brain regions affected very early by AD. Method: Whole-brain voxel-based morphometry was used to assess the neural correlates of semantic processing in three patient groups: two groups of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) patients split into mildly (n = 58) and moderately (n = 53) affected and a mild AD dementia group (n = 71). Discrepancies between the level of impairment on the semantic category fluency test and nonsemantic letter fluency test were calculated for each participant and included in regression models measuring the relationship between semantic memory and whole-brain gray matter volume. Results: Patients at all disease stages demonstrated a loss of the normal semantic advantage in fluency tests, showing significantly greater impairments in category relative to letter fluency. Discrepancy scores in mild MCI correlated strongly with the structural integrity of the anterior medial temporal lobes. Correlations in more severely affected groups were weaker and more widespread. Conclusions: Semantic memory appears a useful indicator of even the earliest stages of medial temporal damage in AD. With advancing disease severity, the discrepancy index loses its focal anatomical association, reinforcing its value as an early marker of incipient decline. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved)

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This post is Copyright: | June 23, 2022
Neuropsychology – Vol 37, Iss 7