Mapping lesion, structural disconnection, and functional disconnection to symptoms in semantic aphasia

Nicholas Edward Souter, Xiuyi Wang, Hannah Thompson, Katya Krieger-Redwood, Ajay Halai, Matthew Lambon Ralph, Michel Thiebaut de Schotten, Elizabeth Jefferies
Preprint medRxiv. 2021-12-02; :
DOI: 10.1101/2021.12.01.470605

Patients with semantic aphasia have impaired control of semantic retrieval, often accompanied by executive dysfunction following left hemisphere stroke. Many but not all of these patients have damage to the left inferior frontal gyrus, important for semantic and cognitive control. Yet semantic and cognitive control networks are highly distributed, including posterior as well as anterior components. Accordingly, semantic aphasia might not only reflect local damage but also white matter structural and functional disconnection. Here we characterise the lesions and predicted patterns of structural and functional disconnection in individuals with semantic aphasia and relate these effects to semantic and executive impairment. Impaired semantic cognition was associated with infarction in distributed left-hemisphere regions, including in the left anterior inferior frontal and posterior temporal cortex. Lesions were associated with executive dysfunction within a set of adjacent but distinct left frontoparietal clusters. Performance on executive tasks was also associated with interhemispheric structural disconnection across the corpus callosum. Poor semantic cognition was associated with small left-lateralized structurally disconnected clusters, including in the left posterior temporal cortex. These results demonstrate that while left-lateralized semantic and executive control regions are often damaged together in stroke aphasia, these deficits are associated with distinct patterns of structural disconnection, consistent with the bilateral nature of executive control and the left-lateralized yet distributed semantic control network.

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