What's in a name: voxel-based morphometric analyses of MRI and naming difficulty in Alzheimer's disease, frontotemporal dementia and corticobasal degeneration

Brain. 2004 Mar;127(Pt 3):628-49. doi: 10.1093/brain/awh075. Epub 2004 Feb 4.


Confrontation naming is impaired in neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's disease (AD), frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and corticobasal degeneration (CBD). Some behavioural observations suggest a common source of impaired naming across these patient groups, while others find partially unique patterns of naming difficulty. We hypothesized that a large-scale neural network underlies naming, and that patterns of impaired naming in AD, FTD and CBD reflect cortical atrophy that interrupts this network in a manner that is partially shared and partially unique across these patient groups. We tested this hypothesis by correlating naming impairments with voxel-based morphometric (VBM) analyses of cortical atrophy in structural MRIs of 50 patients. We found significant naming deficits in all patient groups. Naming also correlated with lexical retrieval in all patient groups, including subgroups of patients with FTD. VBM analyses showed significant cortical atrophy, which was shared across AD, FTD and CBD patients in the left lateral temporal cortex; this area correlated with naming accuracy in all groups. Left lateral temporal atrophy thus appears to interfere with a lexical retrieval component of naming in AD, FTD and CBD. Impaired naming also correlated with semantic memory and visual perceptual-spatial functioning in specific groups of patients and, correspondingly, naming correlated with cortical atrophy in partially distinct neuroanatomical distributions in AD, FTD, CBD and subgroups of patients with FTD. These partially unique correlation profiles appear to reflect selective interruption of other components of the naming process, including semantic and visual perceptual-spatial functioning. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that a large-scale neural network supports naming, and that this network is interrupted in several distinct ways in patients with neurodegenerative diseases.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology
  • Aphasia / pathology
  • Aphasia / psychology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Dementia / pathology
  • Dementia / psychology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Memory
  • Mental Recall
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / psychology
  • Temporal Lobe / pathology*