What do Alzheimer's disease patients know about animals? It depends on task structure and presentation format

Jill B. Rich, Norman W. Park, Stephen Dopkins, Jason Brandt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Deficits on tasks requiring semantic memory in Alzheimer's disease (AD) may be due to storage loss, a retrieval deficit, or both. To address this question, we administered multiple tasks involving 9 exemplars of the category "animals," presented as both words and pictures, to 12 AD patients and 12 nondemented individuals. Participants made semantic judgments by class (sorting task), similarity (triadic comparison task), and dimensional attributes (ordering task). Relative to control participants, AD patients were impaired on an unstructured sorting task, but did not differ on a constrained sorting task. On the triadic comparison task, the patients were as likely to make judgments based on size as domesticity attributes, whereas control participants made judgments based primarily on domesticity. The patients' judgments were also less consistent across tasks than those of control participants. On the ordering tasks, performance was generally comparable between groups with pictures but not words, suggesting that pictures enable AD patients to access information form semantic memory that is less accessible with lexical stimuli. These results suggest that AD patients' semantic judgments are impaired when the retrieval context is unstructured, but perform normally under supportive retrieval conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-94
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Format effects
  • Semantic memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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