Syntactic processing as a marker for cognitive impairment in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Stella Tsermentseli, P Nigel Leigh, Lorna J Taylor, Aleksandar Radunovic, Marco Catani, Laura H Goldstein

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31 Citations (Scopus)
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Despite recent interest in cognitive changes in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), investigations of language function looking at the level of word, sentence and discourse processing are relatively scarce. Data were obtained from 26 patients with sporadic ALS and 26 healthy controls matched for age, education, gender, anxiety, depression and executive function performance. Standardized language tasks included confrontation naming, semantic access, and syntactic comprehension. Quantitative production analysis (QPA) was used to analyse connected speech samples of the Cookie Theft picture description task. Results showed that the ALS patients were impaired on standardized measures of grammatical comprehension and action/verb semantics. At the level of discourse, ALS patients were impaired on measures of syntactic complexity and fluency; however, the latter could be better explained by disease related factors. Discriminant analysis revealed that syntactic measures differentiated ALS patients from controls. In conclusion, patients with ALS exhibit deficits in receptive and expressive language on tasks of comprehension and connected speech production, respectively. Our findings suggest that syntactic processing deficits seem to be the predominant feature of language impairment in ALS and that these deficits can be detected by relatively simple language tests.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-76
Number of pages8
JournalAmyotrophic lateral sclerosis & frontotemporal degeneration
Issue number1-2
Early online date27 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016


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