Intentional and automatic measures of specific-category effect in the semantic impairment of patients with Alzheimer's disease

Roberta Perri, Giovanni A. Carlesimo, Gian Daniele Zannino, Marco Mauri, Barbara Muolo, Carla Pettenati, Carlo Caltagirone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The breakdown of semantic knowledge relative to living and non-living categories was studied in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD). The same living and non-living items were used in a semantic battery and in a semantic priming paradigm exploring automatic access to the semantic system. Although AD patients showed a semantic deficit on the intentional semantic battery, they demonstrated normal semantic facilitation on the priming task. In the AD group as a whole, the semantic impairment did not preferentially affect the living category either in the intentional or automatic condition. Instead, a prevalent deficit for the living category was found in three AD patients (14% of the group) on the intentional semantic tasks, but not on the automatic one. These findings support the view that the category effect may not be a generalised phenomenon in AD but may be restricted to a limited number of patients. The intentional/automatic dissociation of the semantic breakdown demonstrated by AD patients is discussed in relation to different theories regarding the organisation of semantic memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1509-1522
Number of pages14
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2003



  • Category effect
  • Living/non-living
  • Semantic priming
  • Semantic system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

Cite this