Delani Gunawardena

Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

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Publications (9)40.03 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: A disabling impairment of higher-order language function can be seen in patients with Lewy body spectrum disorders such as Parkinson's disease (PD), Parkinson's disease dementia (PDD), and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). We focus on script comprehension in patients with Lewy body spectrum disorders. While scripts unfold sequentially, constituent events are thought to contain an internal organization. Executive dysfunction in patients with Lewy body spectrum disorders may interfere with comprehension of this internal structure. We examined 42 patients (30 non-demented PD and 12 mildly demented PDD/DLB patients) and 12 healthy seniors. We presented 22 scripts (e.g., "going fishing"), each consisting of six events. Pilot data from young controls provided the basis for organizing associated events into clusters and arranging them hierarchically into scripts. We measured accuracy and latency to judge the order of adjacent events in the same cluster versus adjacent events in different clusters. PDD/DLB patients were less accurate in their ordering judgments than PD patients and controls. Healthy seniors and PD patients were significantly faster to judge correctly the order of highly associated within-cluster event pairs relative to less closely associated different-cluster event pairs, while PDD/DLB patients did not consistently distinguish between these event-pair types. This relative insensitivity to the clustered-hierarchical organization of events was related to executive impairment and to frontal atrophy as measured by volumetric MRI. These findings extend prior work on script processing to patients with Lewy body spectrum disorders and highlight the potential impact of frontal/executive dysfunction on the daily lives of affected patients.
    Brain and Language 04/2013; · 3.39 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Pronouns are extraordinarily common in daily language yet little is known about the neural mechanisms that support decisions about pronoun reference. We propose a large-scale neural network for resolving pronoun reference that consists of two components. First, a core language network in peri-Sylvian cortex supports syntactic and semantic resources for interpreting pronoun meaning in sentences. Second, a frontal-parietal network that supports strategic decision-making is recruited to support probabilistic and risk-related components of resolving a pronoun's referent. In an fMRI study of healthy young adults, we observed activation of left inferior frontal and superior temporal cortex, consistent with a language network. We also observed activation of brain regions not associated with traditional language areas. By manipulating the context of the pronoun, we were able to demonstrate recruitment of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex during probabilistic evaluation of a pronoun's reference, and orbital frontal activation when a pronoun must adopt a risky referent. Together, these findings are consistent with a two-component model for resolving a pronoun's reference that includes neuroanatomic regions supporting core linguistic and decision-making mechanisms.
    Neuropsychologia 01/2012; 50(5):674-87. · 3.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Few studies have examined connected speech in demented and non-demented patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). We assessed the speech production of 35 patients with Lewy body spectrum disorder (LBSD), including non-demented PD patients, patients with PD dementia (PDD), and patients with dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), in a semi-structured narrative speech sample in order to characterize impairments of speech fluency and to determine the factors contributing to reduced speech fluency in these patients. Both demented and non-demented PD patients exhibited reduced speech fluency, characterized by reduced overall speech rate and long pauses between sentences. Reduced speech rate in LBSD correlated with measures of between-utterance pauses, executive functioning, and grammatical comprehension. Regression analyses related non-fluent speech, grammatical difficulty, and executive difficulty to atrophy in frontal brain regions. These findings indicate that multiple factors contribute to slowed speech in LBSD, and this is mediated in part by disease in frontal brain regions.
    Brain and Language 11/2011; 120(3):290-302. · 3.39 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To understand the scope of semantic impairment in semantic dementia. Case study. Academic medical center. A man with semantic dementia, as demonstrated by clinical, neuropsychological, and imaging studies. Music performance and magnetic resonance imaging results. Despite profoundly impaired semantic memory for words and objects due to left temporal lobe atrophy, this semiprofessional musician was creative and expressive in demonstrating preserved musical knowledge. Long-term representations of words and objects in semantic memory may be dissociated from meaningful knowledge in other domains, such as music.
    Archives of neurology 02/2011; 68(2):248-50. · 7.58 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To investigate the cognitive and neural basis for nonfluent speech in progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA). Nonfluent speech is the hallmark feature of PNFA, and this has been attributed to impairments in syntactic processing, motor-speech planning, and executive functioning that also occur in these patients. Patients with PNFA have left inferior frontal atrophy. A large semi-structured speech sample and neuropsychological measures of language and executive functioning were examined in 16 patients with PNFA, 12 patients with behavioral-variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), and 13 age-matched controls. Speech fluency was quantified as words per minute (WPM) in the semi-structured speech sample. Stepwise linear regression analyses were used to relate WPM to grammatic, motor-speech planning, and executive aspects of patient functioning. These measures were then related to cortical thickness in 8 patients with PNFA and 7 patients with bvFTD using structural MRI. WPM was significantly reduced in patients with PNFA relative to controls and patients with bvFTD. Regression analyses revealed that only grammatic measures predicted WPM in PNFA, whereas executive measures were the only significant predictor of WPM in bvFTD. Cortical thinning was significant in PNFA relative to controls in left inferior frontal and anterior-superior temporal regions, and a regression analysis related this area to reduced WPM in PNFA. Significant cortical thinning associated with limited grammatic processing also was seen in the left inferior frontal-superior temporal region in PNFA, and this overlapped with the area of frontal-temporal thinning related to reduced WPM. Nonfluent speech in PNFA may be due in part to difficulty with grammatic processing associated with left inferior frontal and anterior-superior temporal disease.
    Neurology 08/2010; 75(7):588-94. · 8.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The nature and frequency of speech production errors in neurodegenerative disease have not previously been precisely quantified. In the present study, 16 patients with a progressive form of non-fluent aphasia (PNFA) were asked to tell a story from a wordless children's picture book. Errors in production were classified as either phonemic, involving language-based deformations that nevertheless result in possible sequences of English speech segments; or phonetic, involving a motor planning deficit and resulting in non-English speech segments. The distribution of cortical atrophy as revealed by structural MRI scans was examined quantitatively in a subset of PNFA patients (N=7). The few errors made by healthy seniors were only phonemic in type. PNFA patients made more than four times as many errors as controls. This included both phonemic and phonetic errors, with a preponderance of errors (82%) classified as phonemic. The majority of phonemic errors were substitutions that shared most distinctive features with the target phoneme. The systematic nature of these substitutions is not consistent with a motor planning deficit. Cortical atrophy was found in prefrontal regions bilaterally and peri-Sylvian regions of the left hemisphere. We conclude that the speech errors produced by PNFA patients are mainly errors at the phonemic level of language processing and are not caused by a motor planning impairment.
    Brain and Language 04/2010; 113(1):13-20. · 3.39 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To investigate the cognitive and neural correlates of discourse impairment in corticobasal syndrome (CBS). Difficulty communicating is a frequent clinical manifestation in patients with CBS. However, the mechanisms underlying this disabling problem are not well understood. Twenty patients with CBS and 8 healthy seniors narrated a picture story. Narratives were analyzed for maintenance of the narrative theme, identification of the overall point of the story (global connectedness), and connectedness between consecutive events (local connectedness). Discourse measures were correlated with performance on cognitive tasks and with cortical atrophy as determined by magnetic resonance imaging voxel-based morphometry. Patients with CBS referred to the narrative theme significantly less frequently than controls. Global connectedness was intact in only 6 of 20 CBS patients (30%), but preserved in all controls. Local connectedness was significantly diminished in patients relative to controls. Discourse performance in CBS was related to tasks requiring higher-order integration of visual material, but not to basic visuospatial/visuoperceptual, language, or memory function. Discourse impairment was directly related to atrophy in the right parietal lobe and bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Our findings suggest that impaired information integration in CBS, related to parieto-frontal disease, interferes with patients' ability to narrate a coherent story.
    Cognitive and behavioral neurology: official journal of the Society for Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology 03/2010; 23(1):1-7. · 1.09 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To test the hypothesis that different neurocognitive networks underlie verbal fluency deficits in frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). Letter ("FAS") and semantic ("animal") fluency tests were administered to patients with a behavioral/dysexecutive disorder (bvFTLD; n = 71), semantic dementia (SemD; n = 21), and progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA; n = 26). Tests measuring working memory, naming/lexical retrieval, and semantic knowledge were also obtained. MRI voxel-based morphometry (VBM) studies were obtained on a subset of these patients (bvFTLD, n = 51; PNFA, n = 11; SemD, n = 10). Patients with SemD were disproportionately impaired on the semantic fluency measure. Reduced output on this test was correlated with impaired performance on naming/lexical retrieval tests. VBM analyses related reduced letter and semantic fluency to anterior and inferior left temporal lobe atrophy. Patients with bvFTLD were equally impaired on both fluency tests. Poor performance on both fluency tests was correlated with low scores on working memory and naming/lexical retrieval measures. In this group, MRI-VBM analyses related letter fluency to bilateral frontal atrophy and semantic fluency to left frontal/temporal atrophy. Patients with PNFA were also equally impaired on fluency tests. Reduced semantic fluency output was correlated with reduced performance on naming/lexical retrieval tests. MRI-VBM analyses related semantic fluency to the right frontal lobe and letter fluency to left temporal atrophy. Distinct neurocognitive networks underlie impaired performance on letter and semantic fluency tests in frontotemporal lobar degeneration subgroups.
    Neurology 09/2009; 73(7):535-42. · 8.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We investigated the cognitive and neural bases of impaired speech fluency, a central feature of primary progressive aphasia. Speech fluency was assessed in 35 patients with frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) who presented with progressive non-fluent aphasia (PNFA, n=11), semantic dementia (SemD, n=12), or a social and executive disorder without aphasia (SOC/EXEC, n=12). Fluency was quantified as the number of words per minute in an extended, semi-structured speech sample. This was related to language characteristics of the speech sample and to neuropsychological measures. PNFA patients were significantly less fluent than controls and other FTLD patients. Fluency correlated with grammatical expression but not with speech errors or executive difficulty. SemD and SOC/EXEC patients were also less fluent than controls. In SemD, fluency was associated with semantically limited content. In SOC/EXEC, fluency was associated with executive limitations. Voxel-based morphometry analyses of high-resolution MRI related fluency to gray matter volume in left inferior frontal, insula, and superior temporal regions for the entire cohort of FTLD patients. This region overlapped partially distinct atrophic areas in each FTLD subgroup. It thus appears to play a crucial role in speech fluency, which can be interrupted in different ways in different FTLD subgroups.
    Journal of Neurolinguistics 07/2009; 22(4):370-383. · 1.12 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

137 Citations
40.03 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2009–2013
    • Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
      • Department of Neurology
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
  • 2011
    • University of Pennsylvania
      • Department of Neurology
      Philadelphia, PA, United States
  • 2010
    • Drexel University College of Medicine
      • Department of Neurology
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States