Sentence comprehension and voxel-based morphometry in progressive nonfluent aphasia, semantic dementia, and nonaphasic frontotemporal dementia

J Neurolinguistics. 2008 Sep;21(5):418-432. doi: 10.1016/j.jneuroling.2008.01.004.


To investigate the basis for impaired sentence comprehension in patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) we assessed grammatical comprehension and verbal working memory in 88 patients with three distinct presentations: progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA), semantic dementia (SD), and nonaphasic patients with a disorder of social comportment and executive processing (SOC/EXEC). We related sentence comprehension and working memory performance to regional cortical volume in a subgroup of 29 patients with structural MRI scans using voxel-based morphometry. PNFA patients exhibited the greatest difficulty with sentence comprehension and were especially impaired with grammatically complex sentences, which correlated with atrophy in left inferior frontal cortex. Working memory performance in these same patients correlated with a proximal but distinct left inferior frontal region. SD patients' sentence comprehension scores correlated with left inferolateral temporal lobe damage, which we hypothesize and reflect impairments in lexical processing. We did not observe any consistent relationship between cortical atrophy and sentence comprehension impairment in SOC/EXEC patients, suggesting the deficits in this subgroup may be due to more variable declines in executive resources.