Semin Speech Lang 2008; 29(1): 032-043
DOI: 10.1055/s-2008-1061623
© Thieme Medical Publishers

Effects of Semantic Impairment on Language Processing in Semantic Dementia

Jamie Reilly1 , 2 , Jonathan E. Peelle3
  • 1Departments of Neurology and Communicative Disorders, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
  • 2Brain Rehabilitation Research Center, Malcom Randall Veterans Affairs Hospital, Gainesville, Florida
  • 3Department of Neurology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
28 April 2008 (online)


Semantic dementia is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by progressive loss of conceptual and lexical knowledge. Cortical atrophy remains relatively isolated to anterior and inferior portions of the temporal lobe early in semantic dementia, later affecting more extensive regions of temporal cortex. Throughout much of the disease course, frontal and parietal lobe structures remain relatively intact. This distribution of cortical damage produces a unique language profile. Patients with semantic dementia typically experience profound deficits in language comprehension and production in the context of relatively well-preserved functioning in domains such as phonology, executive function, visuospatial processing, and speech perception. We discuss the effects of semantic impairment on language processing in semantic dementia within the context of an interactive theory of semantic cognition that assumes the active coordination of modality-neutral and modality-specific components. Finally, we argue the need for an etiology-specific language intervention for this population.


Jamie Reilly, Ph.D. 

Departments of Neurology & Communicative Disorders, University of Florida

P.O. Box 100174, Gainesville, FL 32610

Email: [email protected]