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Clinical, imaging and pathological correlates of a hereditary deficit in verb and action processing
BAK, T.H., Yancopoulou, D., NESTOR, P., Xuereb, H.J., Spillantini, M.G., PULVERMULLER, F. & HODGES, J.R.
Brain, 129(2), 321-332
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Selective verb and noun deficits have been observed in a number of neurological conditions and their occurrence has been interpreted as evidence for different neural networks underlying the processing of specific word categories. We describe the first case of a familial occurrence of a selective deficit of verb processing. Father (Individual I) and son (Individual II) developed a movement disorder resembling progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and associated with dementia. A second child of Individual II remained symptom-free on consecutive examinations. The dissociation between the processing of nouns and verbs in Individual I and II was confirmed with different methods, including a longitudinal assessment of naming, comprehension, picture and word association, as well as a lexical decision task. The difference remained stable on follow-up testing despite overall deterioration. It was associated with left-sided frontal hypometabolism on FDG-PET imaging (Individual II) and with ubiquitin-positive inclusions on post-mortem examination (Individual I). The association of a selective verb deficit with a familial movement disorder raises the question whether related genetic factors might influence both movements and their abstract conceptual representations in the form of action verbs. By demonstrating a link between pathology, genetics, imaging and abstract cognitive impairments this study advances our understanding of degenerative brain disease with implications for both neuroscience and clinical practice.