The authors assessed comprehension of carefully matched classes of words, manipulating grammatical subcategory (noun and verb) and semantic (concrete and abstract) characteristics for participants with semantic dementia (SD) or probable Alzheimer's disease (AD). Participants selected the best of four words that matched a verbal description. Participants with AD or SD were significantly impaired with verbs compared with nouns. Moreover, participants with SD showed significantly greater difficulty with motion verbs compared to cognition verbs. The authors argue that two factors contribute to the difficulty with motion verbs for patients with SD. First, the verb semantic network is very poorly organized relative to the noun semantic network, leaving verbs more vulnerable to a progressive neurodegenerative disease. Second, visual feature knowledge is degraded in patients with SD because of the anatomic distribution of the disease in visual association cortex, causing relatively greater difficulty for concrete verbs compared to abstract verbs.
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