Comprehension of concrete and abstract words in semantic variant primary progressive aphasia and Alzheimer's disease: A behavioral and neuroimaging study

Brain Lang. 2017 Jul:170:93-102. doi: 10.1016/j.bandl.2017.04.004. Epub 2017 Apr 20.


The aim of this study was to investigate the comprehension of concrete, abstract and abstract emotional words in semantic variant primary progressive aphasia (svPPA), Alzheimer's disease (AD), and healthy elderly adults (HE) Three groups of participants (9 svPPA, 12 AD, 11 HE) underwent a general neuropsychological assessment, a similarity judgment task, and structural brain MRI. The three types of words were processed similarly in the group of AD participants. In contrast, patients in the svPPA group were significantly more impaired at processing concrete words than abstract words, while comprehension of abstract emotional words was in between. VBM analyses showed that comprehension of concrete words relative to abstract words was significantly correlated with atrophy in the left anterior temporal lobe. These results support the view that concrete words are disproportionately impaired in svPPA, and that concrete and abstract words may rely upon partly dissociable brain regions.

Keywords: Abstract words; Alzheimer’s disease (AD); Conceptual knowledge; Concrete words; Semantic memory; Semantic variant primary progressive aphasia (svPPA).

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology*
  • Aphasia, Primary Progressive / pathology
  • Aphasia, Primary Progressive / physiopathology*
  • Aphasia, Primary Progressive / psychology*
  • Atrophy
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Comprehension*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Language*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neuroimaging
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Semantics
  • Temporal Lobe / pathology
  • Temporal Lobe / physiopathology