Selective verbal recognition memory impairments are associated with atrophy of the language network in non-semantic variants of primary progressive aphasia

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Primary progressive aphasia (PPA) is clinically defined by an initial loss of language function and preservation of other cognitive abilities, including episodic memory. While PPA primarily affects the left-lateralized perisylvian language network, some clinical neuropsychological tests suggest concurrent initial memory loss. The goal of this study was to test recognition memory of objects and words in the visual and auditory modality to separate language-processing impairments from retentive memory in PPA. Individuals with non-semantic PPA had longer reaction times and higher false alarms for auditory word stimuli compared to visual object stimuli. Moreover, false alarms for auditory word recognition memory were related to cortical thickness within the left inferior frontal gyrus and left temporal pole, while false alarms for visual object recognition memory was related to cortical thickness within the right-temporal pole. This pattern of results suggests that specific vulnerability in processing verbal stimuli can hinder episodic memory in PPA, and provides evidence for differential contributions of the left and right temporal poles in word and object recognition memory.

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