The effects of motor neurone disease on language: further evidence

Brain Lang. 2004 May;89(2):354-61. doi: 10.1016/S0093-934X(03)00357-2.


It might sound surprising that Motor Neurone Disease (MND), regarded still by many as the very example of a neurodegenerative disease affecting selectively the motor system and sparing the sensory functions as well as cognition, can have a significant influence on language. In this article we hope to demonstrate that language dysfunction is not only a pronounced and well documented symptom in some MND patients but also that the study of language in MND can address interesting theoretical questions about the representation of language and conceptual knowledge in the brain. After a brief introduction delineating clinical and pathological features of the disease we discuss the evidence available in the literature for language dysfunction in MND. We then present linguistic data from our own study of seven patients with MND/dementia/aphasia syndrome focusing on the dissociation between noun and verb processing. To illustrate the clinical, neuropsychological and linguistic aspects of MND we describe in more detail the patient E.N., a pathologically confirmed case of MND/dementia. Finally, we attempt to characterise the nature of the linguistic impairment in MND in the light of current debates about the mechanisms underlying noun/verb dissociation.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Anomia / diagnosis
  • Anomia / physiopathology
  • Aphasia, Broca / diagnosis*
  • Aphasia, Broca / physiopathology
  • Association Learning / physiology
  • Comprehension / physiology
  • Dementia / diagnosis*
  • Dementia / physiopathology
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology
  • Frontal Lobe / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Status Schedule
  • Motor Neuron Disease / diagnosis*
  • Motor Neuron Disease / physiopathology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Semantics