Blog Archives

Exploring the roles of the executive and short-term feature-binding functions in retrieval of retrograde autobiographical memories in severe traumatic brain injury

Conway’s autobiographical memory (AM) model postulates that memories are not stored in a crystallised form in long-term memory but are reconstructed at time of retrieval via executive and binding processes, to create a temporary multimodal representation from different AM knowledge. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) impairs AM recollection. However, no study has yet considered the distinct roles of executive and short-term feature-binding functions in the retrieval deficits of retrograde AMs after TBI. Examining a group of 33 TBI patients and 33 controls, our study addresses these roles through a first-ever exploration of the links between performance on an AM verbal fluency evaluation that distinguishes four levels of representation, from semantic to episodic (lifetime periods, general events, specific events, specific details of a specific event), and three executive functions (shifting, inhibition and updating) and two short-term feature-binding functions (short-term formation and maintenance of multimodal representations). The results showed that TBI patients were impaired compared to controls in the retrieval of both semantic and episodic retrograde AM representations, but especially for the most episodic level of AM, in the three executive functions and the short-term maintenance of multimodal representations. Regression analyses indicated that the executive predictors (mainly updating) mediated a large proportion (over 70%) of TBI-related deficit on the retrieval of lifetime periods, general events and specific events, in contrast with the main impairment on generation of specific details which were only mildly (just 12%) predicted by the short-term maintenance of multimodal representations. Additional analyses in a subgroup of patients point to episodic memory abilities and time since injury in predicting the retrieval of specific events and details. In summary, the present study mainly emphasizes that the executive deficits in TBI are involved in the disruption of the first levels of AM generative processes that give access to the multiple episodic details recollection.

from Cortex


Functional near-infrared spectroscopy for the assessment of speech related tasks

Over the past years functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) has substantially contributed to the understanding of language and its neural correlates. In contrast to other imaging techniques, fNIRS is well suited to study language function in healthy and psychiatric populations due to its cheap and easy application in a quiet and natural measurement setting. Its relative insensitivity for motion artifacts allows the use of overt speech tasks and the investigation of verbal conversation. The present review focuses on the numerous contributions of fNIRS to the field of language, its development, and related psychiatric disorders but also on its limitations and chances for the future.

from Brain and Language

Component analysis of verbal fluency in patients with mild traumatic brain injury

We set out to examine the sensitivity of switching and clustering component scores of verbal fluency in patients with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). Clustering and switching scores were compared between patients with mTBI and healthy normal controls as well as those with moderate TBI and severe TBI. Fifty-four healthy controls along with 20 mild TBI, 8 moderate TBI, and 12 severe TBI patients were included in the study. Our findings demonstrate that component score effect sizes were larger than those of total words generated for both phonemic and semantic fluency. This pattern of finding held true regardless of comparison group. In addition, semantic fluency component scores were found to correspond to larger component score effect sizes than did phonemic fluency component scores. Our findings demonstrate that component scores derived from the Controlled Oral Word Association Test may be sufficient to reliably capture the effects of unremitting injury (i.e., more than 3 months post status) to the frontal and temporal brain as evinced in cases of unremitting mTBI. This differential pattern of performance provides preliminary evidence for the potential usefulness of switching and clustering in the assessment of mTBI. Given the small sample sizes employed in our study, however, future studies are needed to determine whether component measures of verbal fluency have discriminative ability.

from the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology

The fat mass and obesity gene is linked to reduced verbal fluency in overweight and obese elderly men

Humans carrying the prevalent rs9939609 A allele of the fat mass and obesity-associated (FTO) gene are more susceptible to developing obesity than noncarries. Recently, polymorphisms in the FTO gene of elderly subjects have also been linked to a reduced volume in the frontal lobe as well as increased risk for incident Alzheimer disease. However, so far there is no evidence directly linking the FTO gene to functional cognitive processes. Here we examined whether the FTO rs9939609 A allele is associated with verbal fluency performance in 355 elderly men at the age of 82 years who have no clinically apparent cognitive impairment. Retrieval of verbal memory is a good surrogate measure reflecting frontal lobe functioning. Here we found that obese and overweight but not normal weight FTO A allele carriers showed a lower performance on verbal fluency than non-carriers (homozygous for rs9939609 T allele). This effect was not observed for a measure of general cognitive performance (i.e., Mini-Mental State Examination score), thereby indicating that the FTO gene primarily affects frontal lobe-dependent cognitive processes in elderly men.

from Neurobiology of Aging

Neural correlates of rhyming vs. lexical and semantic fluency

Rhyming words, as in songs or poems, is a universal feature of human language across all ages. In the present fMRI study a novel overt rhyming task was applied to determine the neural correlates of rhyme production.

Fifteen right-handed healthy male volunteers participated in this verbal fluency study. Participants were instructed to overtly articulate as many words as possible either to a given initial letter (LVF) or to a semantic category (SVF). During the rhyming verbal fluency task (RVF), participants had to generate words that rhymed with pseudoword stimuli. On-line overt verbal responses were audiotaped in order to correct the imaging results for the number of generated words.

Fewer words were generated in the rhyming compared to both the lexical and the semantic condition. On a neural level, all language tasks activated a language network encompassing the left inferior frontal gyrus, the middle and superior temporal gyri as well as the contralateral right cerebellum. Rhyming verbal fluency compared to both, lexical and semantic verbal fluency, demonstrated significantly stronger activation of left inferior parietal region.

Generating novel rhyme words seems to be mainly mediated by the left inferior parietal lobe, a region previously found to be associated with meta-phonological as well as sub-lexical linguistic processes.

from Brain Research

Effect of D-amino acid oxidase activator (DAOA; G72) on brain function during verbal fluency

Conclusions. Our results may reflect an effect of G72 on glutamatergic transmission, mediated by an influence on D-amino acid oxidase activity, on brain areas particularly relevant to the hypoglutamatergic model of psychosis.

from Human Brain Mapping

Criterion Validity of the Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS) Fluency Subtests After Traumatic Brain Injury

The performance of 65 patients with complicated mild–severe traumatic brain injury was evaluated on the Verbal and Design Fluency subtests of the Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS), and compared with that of 65 demographically matched healthy controls. There were statistically significant group differences on Letter Fluency and Category Switching but not on any of the Design Fluency tasks. Combined, these two Verbal Fluency subtests had a classification accuracy of 65.39%, associated with a likelihood ratio of 1.87. The impact of length of coma on Letter Fluency performance but not Category Switching was mediated at least in part by processing speed. The findings suggest modest criterion validity of some of the D–KEFS Verbal Fluency subtests in the assessment of patients with complicated mild–severe traumatic brain injury. (JINS, 2011, 17, 230–237)

from the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society

Synaptic Loss in the Inferior Temporal Gyrus in Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a slowly progressing form of dementia characterized in its earliest stages as a loss of memory. Individuals with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) may be in the earliest stages of the disease and represent an opportunity to identify pathological changes related to the progression of AD. Synaptic loss is one of the hallmarks of AD and associated with cognitive impairment. The inferior temporal gyrus plays an important role in verbal fluency, a cognitive function affected early in the onset of AD. Unbiased stereology coupled with electron microscopy was used to quantify total synaptic numbers in lamina 3 of the inferior temporal gyrus from short postmortem autopsy tissue harvested from subjects who died at different cognitive stages during the progression of AD. Individuals with aMCI had significantly fewer synapses (36%) compared to individuals with no cognitive impairment. Individuals with AD showed a loss of synapses very similar to the aMCI cohort. Synaptic numbers correlated highly with Mini Mental State Examination scores and a test of category verbal fluency. These results demonstrate that the inferior temporal gyrus is affected during the prodromal stage of the disease and may underlie some of the early AD-related clinical dysfunctions.

from the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease

Frontal Activation and Connectivity using Near-Infrared Spectroscopy: Verbal Fluency Language Study

Near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) is optical technique with high temporal resolution and reasonably good spatial resolution, which allows non invasive measurement of the blood oxygenation of tissue. The current work is focused in assessing and correlating brain activation, connectivity and cortical lateralization of the frontal cortex in response to language-based stimuli, using NIRS. Experimental studies were performed on 15 normal right-handed adults, wherein the participants were presented with a verbal fluency task. The hemodynamic responses in the pre- and anterior frontal cortex were assessed in response to a word generation task in comparison to the baseline random jaw movement and rest conditions. The functional connectivity analysis was performed using zero-order correlations and the cortical lateralization was evaluated as well. An increase in oxy- and a decrease in deoxy-hemoglobin were observed during verbal fluency task in the frontal cortex. Unlike in the pre-frontal cortex, the hemodynamic response in the anterior frontal during verbal fluency task was not significantly different from that during random jaw movement. Bilateral activation and symmetrical connectivity was observed in the pre-frontal cortex, independent of the stimuli presented. A left cortical dominance and asymmetry connectivity was observed in the anterior frontal during the verbal fluency task. The work is focused to target the pediatric epileptic populations in the future, where understanding the brain functionality (activation, connectivity, and dominance) in response to language is essential as a part of the pre-surgical evaluation in a clinical environment.

from Brain Research

The Effects of Age, Sex and Alzheimer’s Disease on Strategy Use During Verbal Fluency Tasks

Clustering and switching strategies during phonemic and semantic verbal fluency tasks were investigated in healthy adults (n = 193, 86 males, 20-90 years) in young, middle-aged, young-old, and old-old age groups (Study 1). Older groups produced fewer total words and lower switching scores; males relied more on clustering and females on switching to produce equivalent output. In Study 2, early Alzheimer’s disease participants, compared to healthy older adults, (n = 26 per group) produced fewer total words and smaller average clusters. Sex, age, and clinical differences on switching and clustering strategies support a dual processing model of verbal fluency.

from Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition

Alteraciones neuropsicológicas y de la fluencia verbal en la Enfermedad de Parkinson / Neuropsychological impairment and verbal fluency deficits in Parkinson’s Disease

We can conclude, therefore, that the neuropsychological and language assessment in patients with Parkinson’s disease is an important issue to take into consideration as it may help in knowing the impairment pattern and also in improving the patients day to day functioning as well as it’s quality of life.

from Revista de Logopedia, Foniatría y Audiología

Age-related and individual differences in the use of prediction during language comprehension

During sentence comprehension, older adults are less likely than younger adults to predict features of likely upcoming words. A pair of experiments assessed whether such differences would extend to tasks with reduced working memory demands and time pressures. In Experiment 1, event-related brain potentials were measured as younger and older adults read short phrases cuing antonyms or category exemplars, followed three seconds later by targets that were either congruent or incongruent and, for congruent category exemplars, of higher or lower typicality. When processing the less expected low typicality targets, younger – but not older – adults elicited a prefrontal positivity (500–900 ms) that has been linked to processing consequences of having predictions disconfirmed. Thus, age-related changes in prediction during comprehension generalize across task circumstances. Analyses of individual differences revealed that older adults with higher category fluency were more likely to show the young-like pattern. Experiment 2 showed that these age-related differences were not due to simple slowing of language production mechanisms, as older adults generated overt responses to the cues as quickly as – and more accurately than – younger adults. However, older adults who were relatively faster to produce category exemplars in Experiment 2 were more likely to have shown predictive processing patterns in Experiment 1. Taken together, the results link prediction during language comprehension to language production mechanisms and suggest that although older adults can produce speeded language output on demand, they are less likely to automatically recruit these mechanisms during comprehension unless top-down circuitry is particularly strong.

from Brain and Language

Verbal fluency deficits co-occur with memory deficits in geriatric patients at risk for dementia: Implications for the concept of mild cognitive impairment

We tested the notion that patients at high risk for progression to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) display relatively isolated memory deficits by assessing the relationship between memory and fluency performances in a sample of 92 geriatric subjects with cognitive complaints and normal to mild clinical presentations. Patient groups were formed on the basis of memory test scores. Patients with normal memory scores also performed normally on fluency tests, and their fluency scores were significantly higher than those of patients with low memory performances. Patients falling between these two groups in memory abilities also displayed intermediate level fluency performances. Whereas the normal memory group performed at equivalent levels on semantic and phonemic fluency tasks, both the impaired memory group and the intermediate group displayed relatively greater weaknesses in semantic fluency. This pattern is similar to that seen in AD. Since the impaired memory patients meet criteria for Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment, these findings suggest that memory deficits in “pre-clinical” AD are likely to be accompanied by fluency weaknesses, with semantic fluency weaknesses predominating.

from Behavioural Neurology

Genetic variation in G72 correlates with brain activation in the right middle temporal gyrus in a verbal fluency task in healthy individuals

The D-amino acid oxidase activator gene (G72) has been found associated with several psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, major depression, and bipolar disorder. Impaired performance in verbal fluency tasks is an often replicated finding in the mentioned disorders. In functional neuroimaging studies, this dysfunction has been linked to signal changes in prefrontal and lateral temporal areas and could possibly constitute an endophenotype. Therefore, it is of interest whether genes associated with the disorders, such as G72, modulate verbal fluency performance and its neural correlates. Ninety-six healthy individuals performed a semantic verbal fluency task while brain activation was measured with functional MRI. All subjects were genotyped for two single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) in the G72 gene, M23 (rs3918342) and M24 (rs1421292), that have previously shown association with the above-mentioned disorders. The effect of genotype on brain activation was assessed with fMRI during a semantic verbal fluency task. Although there were no differences in performance, brain activation in the right middle temporal gyrus (BA 39) and the right precuneus (BA 7) was positively correlated with the number of M24 risk alleles in the G72 gene. G72 genotype does modulate brain activation during language production on a semantic level in key language areas. These findings are in line with structural and functional imaging studies in schizophrenia, which showed alterations in the right middle temporal gyrus. Hum Brain Mapp, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

from Human Brain Mapping

Structural Correlates of Semantic and Phonemic Fluency Ability in First and Second Languages

Category and letter fluency tasks are commonly used clinically to investigate the semantic and phonological processes central to speech production, but the neural correlates of these processes are difficult to establish with functional neuroimaging because of the relatively unconstrained nature of the tasks. This study investigated whether differential performance on semantic (category) and phonemic (letter) fluency in neurologically normal participants was reflected in regional gray matter density. The participants were 59 highly proficient speakers of 2 languages. Our findings corroborate the importance of the left inferior temporal cortex in semantic relative to phonemic fluency and show this effect to be the same in a first language (L1) and second language (L2). Additionally, we show that the pre-supplementary motor area (pre-SMA) and head of caudate bilaterally are associated with phonemic more than semantic fluency, and this effect is stronger for L2 than L1 in the caudate nuclei. To further validate these structural results, we reanalyzed previously reported functional data and found that pre-SMA and left caudate activation was higher for phonemic than semantic fluency. On the basis of our findings, we also predict that lesions to the pre-SMA and caudate nuclei may have a greater impact on phonemic than semantic fluency, particularly in L2 speakers.

from Cerebral Cortex