Primary progressive aphasia: a review

Neurocase. 2004 Feb;10(1):3-18. doi: 10.1080/13554790490960440.


This review summarizes clinical and imaging features associated with primary progressive aphasia (PPA). We investigate the hypothesis that these patients can be divided into subgroups of progressive non-fluent aphasia (PNFA) and semantic dementia (SD), based on their linguistic profiles and related imaging studies, and examine whether each of these major subgroups can be further subdivided. We focus on several critical features within each progressive aphasic subgroup. In PNFA, we examine agrammatism, phonologic disorder, and impaired verb processing to determine whether this syndrome is related to a modality-specific impairment in word formation and articulation, or a conceptual deficit that interferes with grammatical processing. In SD, we examine impaired semantic memory, limited remote memory, and anomia to assess whether this syndrome is due to a modality-neutral interruption of semantic memory, or the degradation of various material-specific representations of object features and words. We conclude that there is sufficiently consistent and converging evidence from clinical and imaging studies to support the claim that PNFA and SD are distinct subgroups of PPA. However, there does not appear to be sufficient evidence at this point to support further discrimination within these progressive aphasic subgroups. Testing hypotheses about finer-grained syndromes such as progressive dysarthria or progressive anomia has important consequences for improving our understanding of language organization and the neural basis for language.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aphasia, Primary Progressive* / classification
  • Aphasia, Primary Progressive* / pathology
  • Aphasia, Primary Progressive* / physiopathology
  • Dysarthria
  • Humans
  • Linguistics
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Memory / physiology
  • Memory Disorders / physiopathology
  • Verbal Learning / physiology