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Performance in Specific Language Tasks Correlates With Regional Volume Changes in Progressive Aphasia

Amici, Serena MD* †; Ogar, Jennifer MS* ‡; Brambati, Simona Maria PhD*; Miller, Bruce L. MD*; Neuhaus, John PhD§; Dronkers, Nina L. PhD‡ ∥; Gorno-Tempini, Maria Luisa MD, PhD*

Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology: December 2007 - Volume 20 - Issue 4 - p 203-211
doi: 10.1097/WNN.0b013e31815e6265
Original Studies

Background Patterns of language impairment have long been used clinically to localize brain damage in stroke patients. The same approach might be useful in the differential diagnosis of progressive aphasia owing to neurodegenerative disease.

Objective To investigate whether scores on 4 widely used language tasks correlate with regional gray matter loss in 51 patients with progressive language impairment owing to neurodegenerative disease.

Method Scores in the Boston Naming Test and in the “repetition” “sequential commands” and the “language fluency,” subtests of the Western Aphasia Battery were correlated with voxel-wise gray matter volumes using voxel-based morphometry.

Results Significant positive correlations were found between each language task and regional brain volumes: (1) naming and the bilateral temporal lobes; (2) sentence repetition and the left posterior portion of the superior temporal gyrus; (3) sentence comprehension and the left dorsal middle and inferior frontal gyri; and (4) fluency of language production and the left ventral middle and inferior frontal gyri.

Discussion Performance on specific language tasks corresponds to regional anatomic damage in aphasia owing to neurodegenerative disorders. These language tests might be useful in the differential diagnosis of primary progressive aphasia variants that have been previously associated with damage to corresponding anatomic regions.

*Department of Neurology, Memory and Aging Center

Department of Neurosciences, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy

VA Northern California Health Care System, Martinez

§Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco

University of California, Davis, CA

Supported by the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke (R01NS50915), the National Institute on Aging (P01 AG019724 and P50 AG-03-006), the California Department of Health Services(DHS 04-35516), a Network Grant to the Hillblom Foundation and the UCSF General Clinical Research Center (M01 RR00079).

Reprints: Maria Luisa Gorno-Tempini, MD, PhD, 350 Parnassus Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94143-1207 (e-mail:

Received for publication June 8, 2007; accepted October 12, 2007

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.