Semantic Memory Deterioration in Alzheimer’s Subjects Evidence from Word Association, Definition, and Associate Ranking Tasks Research Article
Research Article  |   September 01, 1990
Semantic Memory Deterioration in Alzheimer’s Subjects
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Sonali C. Abeysinghe
    Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, University of Arizona
  • Kathryn A. Bayles
    Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, University of Arizona
  • Michael W. Trosset
    Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, University of Arizona
  • Requests for reprints should be sent to Kathryn A. Bayles, Dept. of Speech & Hearing Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721.
Article Information
Special Populations / Older Adults & Aging / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Research Articles
Research Article   |   September 01, 1990
Semantic Memory Deterioration in Alzheimer’s Subjects
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, September 1990, Vol. 33, 574-582. doi:10.1044/jshr.3303.574
History: Received August 21, 1989 , Accepted April 5, 1990
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, September 1990, Vol. 33, 574-582. doi:10.1044/jshr.3303.574
History: Received August 21, 1989; Accepted April 5, 1990

The nature of semantic memory impairment in 23 persons with dementia of the Alzheimer type (DAT) was studied using three semantic tasks: word association, definition, and associate rank ordering. Using hierarchical log-linear analysis of the responses to the word association task, DAT subjects were more likely than normal control subjects to give multiword, repetitious, or unrelated responses. Additionally, the ratio of paradigmatic to syntagmatic responses was significantly decreased in DAT subjects. Surprisingly, DAT subjects were able to provide definitions for many stimulus words for which they were unable to provide meaningful associates. This finding suggests the need for caution in interpreting a decrease in the number of paradigmatic responses as indicative of a loss of conceptual knowledge. Results of other analyses demonstrated that DAT subjects had significant impairment in identifying highly related and unrelated semantic associates of words. Taken together, results of this study indicate that one feature of DAT is deterioration in the associative relations between concepts.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This paper is based on master’s thesis research undertaken by Sonali C. Abeysinghe, supervised by Kathryn A. Bayles at the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, University of Arizona. The authors wish to acknowledge the assistance of Peter C. Knotek, Thomas J. Slauson, and Cheryl K. Tomoeda in the collection and preliminary statistical analysis of the data, and Rebecca Burmeister and Pauline Poon in the preparation of the manuscript. Partial support of this project came from National Institute of Mental Health Grant RO1 MH40827.
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