(HealthDay News) – Patients with primary progressive aphasia, a type of young-onset clinical dementia, have difficulty naming and recognizing famous faces, which is associated with cortical atrophy in particular brain areas, according to a study published in the Aug. 13 issue of Neurology.

Tamar Gefen, from Northwestern University in Chicago, and colleagues gave 30 patients with primary progressive aphasia and 27 controls free of dementia (mean age, 62 years for both groups) a test to examine their ability to name vs. recognize famous faces such as John F. Kennedy and Princess Diana. The two groups also underwent magnetic resonance imaging to determine cortical thickness.

The researchers found that patients with aphasia performed significantly worse than controls, both for face recognition (79% vs. 97%) and face naming (46% vs. 93%). Impaired face recognition was associated with bitemporal cortical atrophy, while impaired face naming was associated with cortical atrophy of the left anterior temporal lobe.

“In addition to their clinical relevance for highlighting the distinction between face naming and recognition impairments in individuals with young-onset dementia, these findings add new insights into the dissociable clinico-anatomical substrates of lexical retrieval and object knowledge,” Gefen and colleagues conclude.

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