Depth of word processing in Alzheimer patients and normal controls: a magnetoencephalographic (MEG) study

J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2005 May;112(5):713-30. doi: 10.1007/s00702-004-0215-y. Epub 2004 Oct 12.


Effects related to depth of verbal information processing were investigated in probable Alzheimer's disease patients (AD) and age matched controls. During word encoding sessions 10 patients and 10 controls had either to decide whether the letter "s" appeared in visually presented words (alphabetical decision, shallow encoding), or whether the meaning of each presented word was animate or inanimate (lexical decision, deep encoding). These encoding sessions were followed by test sessions during which all previously encoded words were presented again together with the same number of new words. The task was then to discriminate between repeated and new words. Magnetic field changes related to brain activity were recorded with a whole cortex MEG.5 probable AD patients showed recognition performances above chance level related to both depths of information processing. Those patients and 5 age matched controls were then further analysed. Recognition performance was poorer in probable AD patients compared to controls for both levels of processing. However, in both groups deep encoding led to a higher recognition performance than shallow encoding. We therefore conclude that the performance reduction in the patient group was independent of depth of processing. Reaction times related to false alarms differed between patients and controls after deep encoding which perhaps could already be used for supporting an early diagnosis. The analysis of the physiological data revealed significant differences between correctly recognised repetitions and correctly classified new words (old/new-effect) in the control group which were missing in the patient group after deep encoding. The lack of such an effect in the patient group is interpreted as being due to the respective neuropathology related to probable AD. The present results demonstrate that magnetic field recordings represent a useful tool to physiologically distinguish between probable AD and age matched controls.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Magnetoencephalography*
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Reaction Time