BACKGROUND: The two non-semantic variants of primary progressive aphasia (PPA), nonfluent/agrammatic PPA (nfv-PPA) and logopenic variant PPA (lv-PPA), share language features despite their different underlying pathology, and may be difficult to distinguish for non-language experts. OBJECTIVE: To improve diagnostic accuracy of nfv-PPA and lv-PPA using tasks measuring non-language cognition and emotion processing. METHODS: Thirty-eight dementia patients meeting diagnostic criteria for PPA (nfv-PPA 20, lv-PPA 18) and 21 matched healthy Controls underwent a comprehensive assessment of cognition and emotion processing, as well as a high-resolution structural MRI and a PiB-PET scan, a putative biomarker of Alzheimer's disease. Task performances were compared between the groups and those found to differ significantly were entered into a logistic regression analysis. RESULTS: Analyses revealed a double dissociation between nfv-PPA and lv-PPA. nfv-PPA exhibited significant emotion processing disturbance compared to lv-PPA and Controls. In contrast, only the lv-PPA group was significantly impaired on tasks of episodic memory. Logistic regression analyses showed that 87% of patients were correctly classified using emotion processing and episodic memory composite scores, together with a measure of visuospatial ability. CONCLUSIONS: Non-language presenting features can help differentiate between the two non-semantic PPA syndromes, with a double dissociation observed on tasks of episodic memory and emotion processing. Based on performance on these tasks, we propose a decision tree as a complementary method to differentiate between the two non-semantic variants. These findings have important clinical implications, with identification of patients who may potentially benefit existing therapeutic interventions currently available for Alzheimer's disease.
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