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A functional neuroimaging study of face processing in early Alzheimer's disease (FMRI IN AD)
Start date: Jun 1, 2008, End date: May 31, 2010 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The present project proposes to combine neuropsychology and modern neuroimaging techniques to investigate the structural damage and the retained functionality of the brain in patients at early stages of Alzheimer's disease. We plan to analyse the neural basis of semantic and lexical processes by concentrating on the particular case of person-specific information, i.e. knowledge about known faces and proper names.The study of face recognition and person-specific semantic knowledge provides a unique model to investigate how the human brain analyses incoming stimuli and links them to information stored in long-term memory. Brain damaged patients have demonstrated selective deficits in retrieving semantic and lexical information from both faces and proper names. More recently, functional imaging studies on normal subjects have concentrated on the neural substrates of certain aspects of face processing.This considerable amount of research has provided:i) a robust cognitive model of face and proper name processing, andii) the outline of a network of brain regions involved in the process.However, inevitable limitations of the lesion-deficit association model and of functional neuroimaging on normal subjects, have undermined the possibility to further specify the relative contribution of the different brain regions within this network.Correlating the degree of brain atrophy and the pattern of functional activation of damaged and undamaged areas with the cognitive deficit we aim to:i) identify a pattern of structural damage and of functional preservation typical of the initial stages of Alzheimer's disease, andii) gain important clues on the organisation of semantic and lexical information in the human brain.

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