Syntactic comprehension deficits are associated with MRI white matter alterations in dementia

Tania Giovannetti, Mary W. Hopkins, Jaclyn Crawford, Brianne Magouirk Bettcher, Kara S. Schmidt, David J. Libon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Comprehension difficulties associated with periventricular and deep white matter alterations (WMA) in mild dementia were investigated using portions of the Boston Diagnostic Aphasia Examination (BDAE) Complex Ideation subtest and Syntax subtests. Mild dementia participants were grouped according to the extent of their WMA as observed on magnetic resonance imaging (mild WMA n = 45 vs. moderate to severe WMA n = 52). Correlation and regression analyses also were performed to examine the link between WMA and comprehension abilities, as well as the link between comprehension abilities and neuropsychological measures of executive functioning, language, episodic memory, and overall dementia severity. Results showed that the WMA groups differed on the BDAE-Syntax subtests, with the severe WMA group demonstrating more impairment. Correlation and regression analyses including the entire sample also demonstrated that the extent of WMA was significantly linked to Syntax test scores but not Complex Ideation scores. Regression analyses including neuropsychological measures showed that the BDAE-Complex Ideation score was marginally predicted by only overall dementia severity, whereas the BDAE-Syntax scores were significantly predicted by independent measures of working memory/executive functioning. In conclusion, greater subcortical WMA and executive deficits are associated with greater difficulties in syntactic comprehension in individuals with mild dementia. © 2008

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)542-551
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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