The deterioration of semantic memory in Alzheimer's disease

Can J Exp Psychol. 1999 Mar;53(1):108-17. doi: 10.1037/h0087303.


Semantic memory impairment is a common feature of dementia of the Alzheimer type (DAT). Recent research has shown that patients with DAT are more impaired (relative to non-demented controls) in generating exemplars from a particular semantic category (e.g., animals) than words beginning with a particular letter, exhibit an altered temporal dynamic during the production of category exemplars, are impaired on confrontation naming tasks and make predominantly superordinate or semantically related errors, consistently misidentify the same objects across a variety of semantic tasks, and have alterations in multi-dimensional scaling models of their semantic network that are indicative of a loss of concepts and associations. These results are consistent with the view that Alzheimer's disease results in a breakdown in the organization and structure of semantic knowledge as neurodegeneration spreads to the association cortices that presumably store semantic representations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology*
  • Association*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Concept Formation / physiology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Memory Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Semantics*