Verb-argument integration in primary progressive aphasia: Real-time argument access and selection

Jennifer E Mack*, M. Marsel Mesulam, Emily J. Rogalski, Cynthia K. Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Impaired sentence comprehension is observed in the three major subtypes of PPA, with distinct performance patterns relating to impairments in comprehending complex sentences in the agrammatic (PPA-G) and logopenic (PPA-L) variants and word comprehension in the semantic subtype (PPA-S). However, little is known about basic combinatory processes during sentence comprehension in PPA, such the integration of verbs with their subject and object(s) (verb-argument integration). Methods: The present study used visual-world eye-tracking to examine real-time verb-argument integration in individuals with PPA (12 with PPA-G, 10 with PPA-L, and 6 with PPA-S) and neurotypical older adults (15). Two baseline experiments probed eye movement control, using a non-linguistic task, and noun comprehension, respectively. Two verb-argument integration experiments examined the effects of verb meaning on (a) lexical access of the verb's direct object (argument access) and (b) selection of a semantically-appropriate direct object (argument selection), respectively. Eye movement analyses were conducted only for trials with correct behavioral responses, allowing us to distinguish accuracy and online processing. Results: The eye movement control experiment revealed no significant impairments in PPA, whereas the noun comprehension experiment revealed reduced accuracy and eye-movement latencies in PPA-S, and to a lesser extent PPA-G. In the argument access experiment, verb meaning facilitated argument access normally in PPA-G and PPA-L; in PPA-S, verb-meaning effects emerged on an atypical time course. In the argument selection experiment, significant impairments in accuracy were observed only in PPA-G, accompanied by markedly atypical eye movement patterns. Conclusion: This study revealed two distinct patterns of impaired verb-argument integration in PPA. In PPA-S, impaired verb-argument integration was observed in the argument access experiment, indicating impairments in basic semantic combinatory processes which likely relate to damage in ventral language pathways. In contrast, listeners with PPA-G showed marked impairments of argument selection, likely relating to damage to left inferior frontal regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107192
StatePublished - Nov 2019


  • Eye-tracking
  • Primary progressive aphasia
  • Semantics
  • Syntax
  • Verb-argument structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Verb-argument integration in primary progressive aphasia: Real-time argument access and selection'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this