Grammatical impairments in PPA

Cynthia K. Thompson, Jennifer E. Mack

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Background: Grammatical impairments are commonly observed in the agrammatic subtype of primary progressive aphasia (PPA-G), whereas grammatical processing is relatively preserved in logopenic (PPA-L) and semantic (PPA-S) subtypes.Aims: We review research on grammatical deficits in PPA and associated neural mechanisms, with discussion focused on production and comprehension of four aspects of morphosyntactic structure: grammatical morphology, functional categories, verbs and verb argument structure, and complex syntactic structures. We also address assessment of grammatical deficits in PPA, with emphasis on behavioural tests of grammatical processing. Finally, we address research examining the effects of treatment for progressive grammatical impairments.Main Contribution: PPA-G is associated with grammatical deficits that are evident across linguistic domains in both production and comprehension. PPA-G is associated with damage to regions including the left inferior frontal gyrus and dorsal white matter tracts, which have been linked to impaired comprehension and production of complex sentences. Detailing grammatical deficits in PPA is important for estimating the trajectory of language decline and associated neuropathology. We, therefore, highlight several new assessment tools for examining different aspects of morphosyntactic processing in PPA.Conclusions: Individuals with PPA-G present with agrammatic deficit patterns distinct from those associated with PPA-L and PPA-S, but similar to those seen in agrammatism resulting from stroke, and patterns of cortical atrophy and white matter changes associated with PPA-G have been identified. Methods for clinical evaluation of agrammatism, focusing on comprehension and production of grammatical morphology, functional categories, verbs and verb argument structure, and complex syntactic structures are recommended and tools for this are emerging in the literature. Further research is needed to investigate the real-time processes underlying grammatical impairments in PPA, as well as the structural and functional neural correlates of grammatical impairments across linguistic domains. Few studies have examined the effects of treatment for grammatical impairments in PPA; research in this area is needed to better understand how (or if) grammatical processing ability can be improved, the potential for spared neural tissue to be recruited to support this and whether the neural connections within areas of dysfunctional tissue required for grammatical processing can be enhanced using cortical stimulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1018-1037
Number of pages20
Issue number8-9
StatePublished - Sep 2014


  • Morphology
  • Primary progressive aphasia
  • Sentence comprehension
  • Sentence production
  • Syntax

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • LPN and LVN


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