Anomia as a Marker of Distinct Semantic Memory Impairments in Alzheimer's Disease and Semantic Dementia

Jamie Reilly, Jonathan E. Peelle, Sharon M. Antonucci, Murray Grossman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Objective: Many neurologically constrained models of semantic memory have been informed by two primary temporal lobe pathologies: Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Semantic Dementia (SD). However, controversy persists regarding the nature of the semantic impairment associated with these patient populations. Some argue that AD presents as a disconnection syndrome in which linguistic impairment reflects difficulties in lexical or perceptual means of semantic access. In contrast, there is a wider consensus that SD reflects loss of core knowledge that underlies word and object meaning. Object naming provides a window into the integrity of semantic knowledge in these two populations. Method: We examined naming accuracy, errors and the correlation of naming ability with neuropsychological measures (semantic ability, executive functioning, and working memory) in a large sample of patients with AD (n = 36) and SD (n = 21). Results: Naming ability and naming errors differed between groups, as did neuropsychological predictors of naming ability. Despite a similar extent of baseline cognitive impairment, SD patients were more anomic than AD patients. Conclusions: These results add to a growing body of literature supporting a dual impairment to semantic content and active semantic processing in AD, and confirm the fundamental deficit in semantic content in SD. We interpret these findings as supporting of a model of semantic memory premised upon dynamic interactivity between the process and content of conceptual knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-426
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Error analysis
  • Naming
  • Semantic dementia
  • Semantic memory


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