Vol. 7 nº 1 - Jan/Feb/Mar de 2013
Original Article Páginas: 48 a 54

Semantic memory: nouns and action verbs in cognitively unimpaired individuals and frontotemporal lobar degeneration

Authors Leticia Lessa Mansur1; Maria Teresa Carthery-Goulart2; Valéria Santoro Bahia3; Thomas H. Bak4; Ricardo Nitrini4


keywords: cognition, language, memory, neuropsychological tests, age, schooling.

Among the instruments to evaluate semantic memory, the Pyramids and Palm Trees (PPT) and the Kissing and Dancing (KDT) tests are widely used but none have a performance referential for cognitively normal and impaired Brazilian populations.
OBJECTIVE: [A] To study these two tests in a sample of young healthy Brazilian individuals living in São Paulo; [B] To apply the results to the evaluation of two cases diagnosed with frontotemporal lobar degeneration.
METHODS: We evaluated 50 normal participants (41 females and 9 males) aged between 20-63 years, with schooling level of 14-20 years. In addition, two individuals diagnosed with frontotemporal lobar degeneration were examined, one with behavioral-variant frontotemporal dementia and the other with semantic dementia.
RESULTS: On the two tests, no effects of age, gender and schooling on the performance of normal individuals were observed. According to the performance of the sample of controls, scores below 46 points on the PPT and below 47 on the KDT are suggestive of deficits in semantic memory. The analyses of both cases indicated double dissociation in establishing associations between nouns and action verbs. Although the two patients had low scores on both tests, the patient with behavioral-variant frontotemporal dementia performed better on the PPT compared to the KDT, while the patient with semantic dementia showed the reverse, performing better on the KDT.
CONCLUSION: The PPT and KDT are suitable tests for use in the Brazilian population, with minimal need for adjustments. They are applicable tools both for cognitive assessment and research in semantic memory. In the present study, we obtained representative values of performance for cognitively unimpaired individuals and demonstrated the utility of these instruments for cognitive assessment of patients with FTLD.


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