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Cognitive brain activity in Alzheimer's disease: Electrophysiological response during picture semantic categorization

  • FEGGY OSTROSKY-SOLÍS (a1), MARISOL CASTAÑEDA (a1), MARTHA PÉREZ (a1), GABRIELA CASTILLO (a1) and MARÍA ANTONIETA BOBES (a2)...

Abstract

Semantic memory deterioration is a major component of the cognitive decline seen in patients with dementia of the Alzheimer's type (DAT); however, the exact nature of this deficit remains unclear. Some research data support a procedural deficit where there is an inability to access or retrieve the contents of semantic memory, while other data point to a degraded semantic store where the actual content of semantic memory is degraded. Additional information about semantic processing in DAT can be obtained through the use of an event-related potential (ERP) component known as N400. In the present study, ERPs were recorded from 10 young control participants, 10 elderly control participants, and 10 DAT patients in a picture–semantic matching task. Stimuli were presented sequentially as prime–target pairs, with one-half of the targets matching the primes via semantic relationships (e.g., piano–violin) and the other half mismatching the prime (e.g., helmet–violin). The task was to discriminate between semantically related and unrelated pairs of pictures. In the young and elderly control groups, ERPs generated a larger N400 for unrelated than related target pictures, with a maximum amplitude around 380 ms in the young group and around 480 ms in the elderly group. The amplitude of the N400 was significantly reduced in the DAT patients. However, a separate analysis of congruent and incongruent ERPs trials revealed significant differences only with the incongruent trials. The amplitude of incongruent recordings was larger for the elderly control group than for the DAT patients, while the amplitude for congruent recordings was similar in both groups. These findings are consistent with the neuropathological evidence that Alzheimer's disease is a neocortical disconnection syndrome in which there is a loss of structural and functional integrity of long corticocortical tracts. The semantic activation created by the context is not used efficiently in processing stimuli, which affects access to specific concepts and gradually leads to a breakdown in the structure and organization of semantic memory. (JINS, 1998, 4, 415–425.)

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Corresponding author

Reprint requests to: Feggy Ostrosky-Solís, Department of Psychophysiology, School of Psychology, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Rivera de Cupia 110-71, Lomas de Reforma, México, D.F., 11930. E-mail: Feggy@servidor.unam.mx

Keywords

Cognitive brain activity in Alzheimer's disease: Electrophysiological response during picture semantic categorization

  • FEGGY OSTROSKY-SOLÍS (a1), MARISOL CASTAÑEDA (a1), MARTHA PÉREZ (a1), GABRIELA CASTILLO (a1) and MARÍA ANTONIETA BOBES (a2)...

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