Exploring Anaphora in Alzheimer’s Disease: Insights from Experimental Research

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Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by cognitive decline, particularly in memory, and language impairment during its prodromal stages. Early detection of AD is crucial for effective intervention and management. Understanding how language changes in the prodromal period of AD is essential for enhancing early detection methods. Golde, DeKosky, and Galasko (2018) emphasized the significance of investigating language changes to strengthen early detection when treatments may be most effective. Similarly, Selkoe (2021) highlighted the importance of such investigations in advancing our understanding of fundamental brain-language relations.

Neuroscientific research has extensively studied the progression of AD, including its prodromal preclinical periods. Studies by Braak and Braak (1991, 1996) and others have contributed significantly to this understanding. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is often considered a prodromal stage of AD, characterized by cognitive decline, especially in memory. While memory deficits are primary in MCI, research has shown deficits in other cognitive domains, including language. Sherman et al. (2021) reviewed extensive literature highlighting language deficits in early and prodromal AD stages.

Despite growing evidence of linguistic decline in AD, variations in research data and methods pose challenges to neuroscientific investigations aiming to explain language deterioration precisely. Roark, Mitchell, and Hollingshead (2007) evaluated methods seeking to characterize deterioration in syntactic complexity.

This paper reports experimental research on language assessment in MCI, focusing on anaphora in complex sentences. Anaphora, critical for integrating syntax and semantics, was chosen to elucidate linguistic deterioration in prodromal AD. Two experimental tests were conducted: one targeting anaphora in adverbial subordinate clauses (ASC) and the other in coordinate clauses (CS). The relationship between language production and memory performance was assessed.

The architecture of the Language Faculty integrates syntactic computation with external components, emphasizing the importance of relating language and thought at the Conceptual-Intentional (C–I) interface. Our experimental results suggest that early language deterioration in prodromal AD targets the C–I interface while leaving syntactic computation relatively intact. Analyses reveal specific deterioration in anaphoric construal integrating coreference in sentence syntax.

Anaphora, defined as cases where two nominal expressions share the same referential value, involves two forms of construal: binding and coreference. While binding is directly computed through syntax, coreference integrates with contextual reasoning beyond core grammar. Pronouns exhibit ambiguity, straddling the C–I interface through binding and coreference construals.

Decades of linguistic and psycholinguistic studies have explored explanations for anaphoric construal and the strategies involved. Resolving anaphoric dependency by variable binding is proposed to be more accessible or economical than establishing coreference through discourse storage.

In conclusion, the study findings shed light on how language, specifically anaphora, is affected in early stages of AD. Understanding these linguistic changes can aid in early detection and intervention strategies, contributing to improved patient care and management of AD.


reference link : https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0911604423000672

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