Semantic and, to a lesser extent, phonological verbal fluency tasks are impaired in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and in amnesic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI). Furthermore, both fluency tasks have been considered as possible markers of conversion from aMCI to AD. Up to recent years, the use of fluency tasks has been limited to word count, but, more recently, linguistic variables, such as word frequency, age of acquisition, familiarity, and typicality, have also been considered. In particular, attention has been focused on typicality of words produced on semantic verbal fluency tasks, because the tendency to produce only the more typical members of various categories points to an impoverishment of semantic memory. The aim of our study was to compare in aMCI, AD, and control subjects a lexical (word frequency) and a lexical-semantic variable (item typicality) in a semantic verbal fluency task, and to evaluate the possible value of these variables in predicting conversion from aMCI to AD during a 2 years follow-up period. We found no difference in mean typicality of words produced by aMCI and AD subjects whereas both groups produced words of higher mean typicality than control subjects. Furthermore, to assess the relationship between typicality values and risk of conversion to AD, the aMCI group was split in two subgroups, including subjects who obtained a mean typicality value lower or higher than the median value of the whole aMCI group. Consistent with our hypothesis, conversion to AD was significantly more frequent in high typicality than in low typicality subjects.
Vita, M. G., Marra, C., Spinelli, P., Caprara, A., Scaricamazza, E., Castelli, D., Canulli, S., Gainotti, G., Quaranta, D., Typicality of words produced on a semantic fluency task in amnesic mild cognitive impairment: linguistic analysis and risk of conversion to dementia, <<JOURNAL OF ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE>>, 2014; 42 (4): 1171-1178. [doi:10.3233/JAD-140570] [http://hdl.handle.net/10807/61173]