May 22, 2019 / Modified may 22, 2019 11:13 a.m.

UA study of language disorder could aid early dementia detection

The research looks at primary progressive aphasia, a neurodegenerative disorder that causes a gradual decline in language abilities.

alzheimer's dementia brain scan

PHOENIX — Scientists in Tucson and Toronto have identified a pattern in brain dysfunctions related to a rare language disorder.

Their findings could aid in the treatment and early detection of dementias.

The research appears in the journal Neuropsychologia.

The team studied Primary Progressive Aphasia, a neurodegenerative disorder that causes a gradual decline in language abilities.

When lead author Aneta Kielar of UA looked at relevant brain areas while subjects performed language tasks, she found their MRIs looked normal.

"It looked normal structurally. But then, during the language task, we can only see that on the functional scan that it was abnormal," Kielar said.

That loss of function likely came from other areas in the language network degenerating, disconnecting and "dropping signal," thereby causing delays in information processing.

This relationship between structure and function could aid in early detection of dementias.

Arizona Science Desk
This story is from the Arizona Science Desk, a collaborative of the state's public radio stations, including NPR 89.1. Read more from the Arizona Science Desk.
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