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Differential decline in word generation from phonemic and semantic categories during the course of Alzheimer's disease: Implications for the integrity of semantic memory

  • DAVID P. SALMON (a1), WILLIAM C. HEINDEL (a2) and KELLY L. LANGE (a3)

Abstract

The ability to generate words from phonemic (i.e., words beginning with ‘F,’ ‘A,’ and ‘S’) and semantic (i.e., animals, fruits, and vegetables) categories was assessed longitudinally in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD; N = 59) and normal controls (NC; N = 59). Patients with AD performed worse than NC participants on both tasks at each of 4 annual evaluations and exhibited greater impairment relative to controls on the semantic-category task than on the phonemic-category task. In addition, the performance of the patients with AD declined over time on both tasks, but the rate of decline was faster on the semantic-category than on the phonemic-category task. Examination of individual responses across the annual evaluations revealed that patients with AD were more consistent than NC participants in failing to generate previously produced semantic-category, but not phonemic-category, items in all years following the 1st year in which the item was not produced. These results are consistent with the notion that patients with AD suffer a gradual deterioration of the organization and content of semantic memory as the disease progresses. (JINS, 1999, 5, 692–703.)

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Reprint requests to: David P. Salmon, Department of Neurosciences (0948), University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0948. E-mail: dsalmon@ucsd.edu

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