OBJECTIVE: To investigate the type of errors produced in a picture naming task by patients affected by neurodegenerative dementia due to different etiologies and their neural correlates.
METHODS: The same standardized picture naming test was administered to a consecutive sample of patients (n = 148) who had been studied with [18F] FDG-PET. The errors were analyzed in 3 categories (visual, semantic, and phonological). The PET data were analyzed using an optimized single-subject procedure, and the Statistical Parametric Mapping multiple regression design was used to explore the correlation between each type of error and brain hypometabolism in the whole group. Metabolic connectivity analyses were run at the group-level on 7 left hemisphere cortical areas corresponding to an a priori defined naming network.
RESULTS: Semantic errors were predominant in most patients, independent of clinical diagnosis. In the whole group analysis, visual errors correlated with hypometabolism in the right inferior occipital lobe and in the left middle occipital lobe. Semantic errors correlated with hypometabolism in the left fusiform gyrus, the inferior and middle temporal gyri, and the temporal pole. Phonological errors were associated with hypometabolism in the left superior and middle temporal gyri. Both positive (occipital -posterior fusiform) and negative (anterior fusiform gyrus and the superior anterior temporal lobe) connectivity changes were associated with semantic errors.
CONCLUSIONS: Naming errors reflect the dysfunction of separate stages of the naming process and are specific markers for different patterns of brain involvement. These correlations are not limited to PPA but extend to other neurodegenerative dementias.