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Overreliance on thematic knowledge in semantic dementia: Evidence from an eye-tracking paradigm.

  • Merck, Catherine
  • Noël, Audrey
  • Jamet, Eric
  • Robert, Maxime
  • Salmon, Anne
  • Belliard, Serge
Publication Date
Jan 16, 2020
PMID: 31944788
OAI: oai:HAL:hal-02447052v1
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The present study explored two types of semantic relationships in semantic dementia (SD), that rely on functionally and neuroanatomically distinct semantic systems (taxonomic vs. thematic). We used the visual world paradigm coupled with eye-movement recordings, to gain an implicit, fine-grained and dynamic measure of semantic processing. Nine patients with SD and 15 healthy controls performed a simple word-to-picture matching task in which they had to identify each target among semantically related (taxonomic or thematic) competitors and unrelated distractors. We demonstrated different patterns of gaze fixations between patients with SD and controls: while patients with SD and controls were similarly sensitive to competition from taxonomically related pictures, patients with SD were far more sensitive than controls to thematically related competitors before identifying the targets. Moreover, most of the confusion errors made by patients with SD involved taxonomic distractors rather than thematic ones. We interpreted these findings as reflecting a semantic disequilibrium in SD, with increasing overreliance on thematic knowledge as taxonomic knowledge gradually deteriorates. We concluded that thematic relationships constitute a set of residual semantic knowledge and that their exaggerated activation in SD might certainly deserve further explorations to determine their specific role in this disease and notably, their influence on patients' abilities to deal with daily living activities. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

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