Frontal and temporal lobe involvement on verbal fluency measures in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2010 Nov;32(9):913-22. doi: 10.1080/13803391003596439. Epub 2010 Apr 13.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) has been associated with changes in frontal and temporal lobe-mediated cognitive and behavioral functions. Verbal fluency, a sensitive measure to these changes, was utilized to investigate phonemic and semantic abilities in 49 ALS patients and 25 healthy controls (HCs). A subset of the ALS patients was classified as ALS-intact, ALS with mild cognitive impairments (ALS-mild), and ALS with fronto-temporal dementia (ALS-FTD) based on a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation. Clustering and switching, the underlying component processes of verbal fluency, were analyzed using Troyer's (Troyer, Moscovitch, & Winocur, 1997) and Abwender's (Abwender, Swan, Bowerman, & Connolly, 2001) scoring systems. ALS patients exhibited decreased fluency versus HCs. For phonemic fluency, the intact ALS sample generated fewer clusters and more switches than the ALS-mild and ALS-FTD patients using both scoring systems. This suggests temporal involvement in ALS patients, with increasing frontal lobe involvement in patients with greater cognitive dysfunction. For semantic fluency, similar results were obtained with a greater emphasis on declines in clustering or increased temporal lobe dysfunction. These results suggest that verbal fluency measures identify frontal and temporal lobe involvement in the cognitive decline associated with ALS, particularly when the component processes are evaluated. The clinical utility of these scoring systems with ALS patients is also discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / physiopathology*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Frontotemporal Dementia / etiology
  • Frontotemporal Dementia / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Speech Articulation Tests*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Verbal Behavior / physiology*