Two characteristics of word-list generation performance are forming clusters (i.e., contiguous words from the same subcategory) and switching among them. Patients with frontal lobe pathology show reduced switching on letter-cued word generation tasks, and clustering has been associated with temporal lobe functioning. Letter-cued word generation was examined in 72 patients with Huntington's disease (HD) and 41 healthy participants of equivalent age and education. As predicted, the patients showed reduced switching but normal clustering. In addition, switching but not clustering correlated inversely with disease severity, as measured by both movement and mental status scales. Furthermore, 5-year longitudinal analysis revealed a monotonic decrease in switching over time, whereas clustering performance remained stable. Control participants performed uniformly over time on both measures. These results are consistent with a progressive reduction in cognitive flexibility attributed to disruption of frontal-subcortical circuits secondary to neostriatal pathology in HD.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology