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Striking loss of second language in bilingual patients with semantic dementia

  • Ratnavalli EllajosyulaEmail author
  • Jwala Narayanan
  • Karalyn Patterson
Original Communication

Abstract

Background

Studies of bilingual or multilingual patients with neurodegenerative diseases that disrupt language like the primary progressive aphasias (PPA) may contribute valuable information on language organization in the bilingual brain and on the factors affecting language decline. There is limited literature on bilingual PPA and in particular on semantic dementia, a type of PPA with selective loss of semantic memory. We studied the nature and severity of naming and comprehension deficits across languages in bilingual patients with semantic dementia (SD).

Methods

Sixteen bilingual patients with SD and 34 bilingual age-matched controls were administered the modified Boston Naming Test and components of Cambridge Semantic Battery. The patients’ performance on picture naming and word comprehension was compared across languages and with controls. The most proficient language on self-rating was labelled as L1 and less proficient as L2.

Results

We observed striking loss of second language (L2) in SD for both receptive and expressive language, even in patients who were premorbidly fluent in their L2. Naming and comprehension in every patient’s L2 were impaired relative to both their own first-language (L1) scores and controls’ L2 scores. Furthermore, item-specific correct responses in each patient’s L2 were a subset of their successes in L1.

Discussion

A striking contrast in performance between two languages in bilingual patients with SD indicates that a bilingual’s L2 or less proficient language is more vulnerable to neurodegeneration. Our findings also support a common semantic network in the brain for the different languages of bilinguals.

Keywords

Primary progressive aphasia Semantic dementia Bilingualism Naming Word comprehension 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors thank all the patients and their families for participating in the study and colleagues for referrals. Some of the findings from this study have been presented at the International Neuropsychological Society (INS) meeting in London, 6–8 July 2016, at the British Neuropsychological Society (BNS) meeting in London, 1 November 2018 and the International conference on Frontotemporal dementias in Sydney, 11–14 November 2018.

Funding

This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

On behalf of all the authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical standard

The study has been approved by the hospital ethics committee.

Informed consent

All patients or their caregivers and controls gave informed consent according to the Declaration of Helsinki.

Supplementary material

415_2019_9616_MOESM1_ESM.docx (28 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 28 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeurologyManipal HospitalBangaloreIndia
  2. 2.Department of NeurologyAnnasawmy Mudaliar HospitalBangaloreIndia
  3. 3.Department of NeuropsychologyAnnasawmy Mudaliar HospitalBangaloreIndia
  4. 4.Department of Clinical Neurosciences and MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences UnitUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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