Differential linguistic features of verbal fluency in behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia and primary progressive aphasia

E. van den Berg*, J. C. M. Dijkzeul, J. M. Poos, W. S. Eikelboom, J. van Hemmen, S. Franzen, F. J. de Jong, E. G. P. Dopper, J. M. J. Vonk, J. M. Papma, D. Satoer, L. C. Jiskoot, H. Seelaar

*Corresponding author for this work

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Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is an early-onset neurodegenerative disorder with a heterogeneous clinical presentation. Verbal fluency is regularly used as a sensitive measure of language ability, semantic memory, and executive functioning, but qualitative changes in verbal fluency in FTD are currently overlooked. This retrospective study examined qualitative, linguistic features of verbal fluency in 137 patients with behavioral variant (bv)FTD (n = 50), or primary progressive aphasia (PPA) [25 non-fluent variant (nfvPPA), 27 semantic variant (svPPA), and 34 logopenic variant (lvPPA)] and 25 control participants. Between-group differences in clustering, switching, lexical frequency (LF), age of acquisition (AoA), neighborhood density (ND), and word length (WL) were examined in the category and letter fluency with analysis of variance adjusted for age, sex, and the total number of words. Associations with other cognitive functions were explored with linear regression analysis. The results showed that the verbal fluency performance of patients with svPPA could be distinguished from controls and other patient groups by fewer and smaller clusters, more switches, higher LF, and lower AoA (all p < 0.05). Patients with lvPPA specifically produced words with higher ND than the other patient groups (p < 0.05). Patients with bvFTD produced longer words than the PPA groups (p < 0.05). Clustering, switching, LF, AoA, and ND-but not WL-were differentially predicted by measures of language, memory, and executive functioning (range standardized regression coefficient 0.25-0.41). In addition to the total number of words, qualitative linguistic features differ between subtypes of FTD. These features provide additional information on lexical processing and semantic memory that may aid the differential diagnosis of FTD.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalApplied neuropsychology. Adult
Early online date13 Apr 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Apr 2022

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© 2022 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


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