Dilkina, K., McClelland, J. L., and Plaut, D. C. (2008). A single-system account of semantic and lexical deficits in five semantic dementia patients. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 25, 136-164.

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Abstract: In semantic dementia (SD), there is a correlation between performance on semantic tasks such as picture naming and lexical tasks such as reading aloud. However, there have been a few case reports of patients with spared reading despite profound semantic impairment. These reports have sparked an ongoing debate about how the brain processes conceptual versus lexical knowledge. One possibility is that there are two functionally distinct systems in the brain˘one for semantic and one for lexical processing. Alternatively, there may be a single system involved in both. We present a computational investigation of the role of individual differences in explaining the relationship between naming and reading performance in five SD patients, among whom there are cases of both association and dissociation of deficits. We used a connectionist model where information from different modalities feeds into a single integrative layer. Our simulations successfully produced the overall relationship between reading and naming seen in SD and provided multiple fits for both association and dissociation data, suggesting that a single, cross-modal, integrative system is sufficient for both semantic and lexical tasks and that individual differences among patients are essential in accounting for variability in performance.

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