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Neural correlates of spoken discourse of women with Alzheimer’s disease with low levels of education and socioeconomic status 

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Poster B1 in Poster Session B, Tuesday, October 24, 3:30 - 5:15 pm CEST, Espace Vieux-Port

Lilian Cristine Hubner1,2, Bárbara Luzia Covatti Malcorra1, Alberto Osa Garcia3, Karine Marcotte3, Lucas Porcello Schilling1,4, Irênio Gomes Silva Filho1, Fernanda Loureiro1; 1Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS), 2National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), 3University of Montreal, 4Brain Institute of Rio Grande do Sul (InsCer)

Background: The study of spoken discourse in Alzheimer's disease (AD) has been much more incipient as compared to the studies of other cognitive functions, such as memory. There is evidence pointing to early language impairments in spoken discourse abilities in people diagnosed with AD. So far, the impact of AD on spoken discourse and the associated neuroanatomical correlates have mainly been studied in populations with higher levels of education, although preliminary evidence seems to indicate that socioeconomic status (SES) and level of education have an impact on spoken discourse. Aims: This study has three main aims: 1) to analyze discourse production in people diagnosed with AD having low-to-middle socioeconomic status and low level of education; 2) to identify microstructural markers of language decline; and 3) to study the association between spoken discourse measures and their structural grey matter (GM) correlates. Methods & Procedure: Nine women with AD and 10 women in the control group matched by age, education, and SES without brain injury (WWBI) underwent a battery of neuropsychological tests, which included two spoken discourse tasks (a funny story and a picture-based narrative), and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Microstructural variables were extracted from the two combined discourse samples using NILC-Metrix software. Brain density, measured by voxel-based morphometry, was compared between groups and then correlated with the differentiating microstructural variables.  Outcomes & Results: The analyses of microstructural variables using the software showed that the AD group produced a lower diversity of verbal time moods, fewer words and sentences than WWBI, but a greater diversity of pronouns and prepositions as well as a greater lexical richness. At the neural level, the VBM analyses showed that the AD group presented a lower GM density bilaterally in the hippocampus, the inferior temporal gyrus, and the anterior cingulate gyrus. The number of words and sentences produced were associated with GM density in the left parahippocampal gyrus (L-PHG) whereas the diversity of verbal moods was associated with the basal ganglia and the anterior cingulate gyrus bilaterally. Conclusions & Implications: At both behavioral and neural level, the findings are consistent with previous studies conducted in groups with higher levels of education and SES. Nonetheless, the results of this study suggest that atrophy in the left inferior temporal gyrus could be critical in the early stages of AD in populations with lower levels of education and SES. This research provides evidence on the importance of pursuing further studies including larger samples with and without AD as well as with various SES and education levels.

Topic Areas: Language Production, Disorders: Acquired

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