The Deterioration of Semantic Networks in Alzheimer’s Disease

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Israel Martínez-Nicolás
Juan Carro
Thide E. Llorente
Juan José García Meilán


Language impairments in Alzheimer’s disease may appear at the prodromal stage. The most significant impairment is found at the lexical-semantic process level, which is explained either by a degradation of the areas that store the semantic network or by a failure at retrieving the information from that network. Regardless of the retrieval failure happening, there is evidence of the degradation of the semantic network at some levels. Several studies support the bottom-up breakdown, according to which the loss starts at the specific concept attribute level, along with the link with its coordinates, while superordinates are preserved. Some characteristics can affect this loss such as familiarity, age of acquisition, frequency, or affective features. While classic studies have focused on concrete neutral nouns, recent research is exploring the role of emotion. Since emotional processes strengthen the semantic relationship between concepts, it could be a relevant dimension for the preservation of the semantic network.


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Chapter 11