Word recognition in Alzheimer's disease: Effects of semantic degeneration

Fernando Cuetos, Noemí Arce, Carmen Martínez, Andrew W Ellis

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Impairments of word recognition in Alzheimer's disease (AD) have been less widely investigated than impairments affecting word retrieval and production. In particular, we know little about what makes individual words easier or harder for patients with AD to recognize. We used a lexical selection task in which participants were shown sets of four items, each set consisting of one word and three non-words. The task was simply to point to the word on each trial. Forty patients with mild-to-moderate AD were significantly impaired on this task relative to matched controls who made very few errors. The number of patients with AD able to recognize each word correctly was predicted by the frequency, age of acquisition, and imageability of the words, but not by their length or number of orthographic neighbours. Patient Mini-Mental State Examination and phonological fluency scores also predicted the number of words recognized. We propose that progressive degradation of central semantic representations in AD differentially affects the ability to recognize low-imageability, low-frequency, late-acquired words, with the same factors affecting word recognition as affecting word retrieval.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-39
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuropsychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2015 The British Psychological Society.


  • Alzheimer's dementia age-of-acquisition frequency imageability

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