Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Impact of Semantic Dementia on Everyday Actions: Evidence from an Ecological Study

  • Nathalie Bier (a1) (a2), Carolina Bottari (a1) (a3), Carol Hudon (a4) (a5), Sven Joubert (a2) (a6), Guillaume Paquette (a2) and Joël Macoir (a5) (a7)...


In theory, semantic memory may trigger and support the execution of everyday activities. This study explored this question by comparing three patients with semantic dementia to 40 normal controls performing different everyday activities. Participants were tested in their home using the Instrumental Activities of Daily Living Profile, an ecological measure of everyday functioning. Participants were informed that they had unknowingly invited two guests for lunch and should prepare accordingly. With these instructions, they dress to go outdoors, go to the grocery store, shop for food, prepare a hot meal, have the meal with the guests, and clean up after the meal. Performance was analyzed on the basis of four operations related to problem solving: formulate a goal, plan, execute, and verify attainment of the goal. Results indicate that compared to normal controls, two patients had significant difficulties and needed assistance with all operations of problem-solving, particularly while preparing a meal and cleaning up after the meal. One patient showed no difficulties despite severe semantic deficits. These results suggest that semantic deficits alone cannot explain the difficulties observed, but may contribute to some aspects of everyday actions such as those involved in everyday problem-solving. (JINS, 2012, 18, 1–11)


Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to: Nathalie Bier, Centre de recherche de l'Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal, 4565, chemin Queen-Mary, Montréal (Québec), Canada, H3W 1W5. E-mail:


Hide All
Armus, S.R., Brookshire, R.H., Nicholas, L.E. (1989). Aphasic and non-brain-damaged adults' knowledge of scripts for common situations. Brain Lang, 36, 518528. doi:10.1016/0093-934X(89)90082-5
Barbeau, E., Tramoni, E., Joubert, S., Mancini, J., Ceccaldi, M., Poncet, M. (2004). Evaluation de la mémoire de reconnaissance visuelle: Normalisation d'une nouvelle épreuve en choix forcé (DMS48) et utilité en neuropsychologie clinique [Evaluation of visual memory recognition: Norms of a new test of forced recognition (DMS48) and its utility in clinical neuropsychology]. In M. Van der Linden (Ed.), L’évaluation des troubles de la mémoire (pp. 85101). Marseille: Solal.
Barsalou, L.W. (2003). Situated simulation in the human conceptual system. Language and Cognitive Processes, 18, 513562.
Barsalou, L.W. (2008). Grounded cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 617645. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.59.103006.093639
Barsalou, L.W., Sewell, D.L. (1985). Contrasting the representation of scripts and categories. Journal of Memory and Language, 24, 646665.
Bechara, A., Damasio, H., Damasio, A.R. (2000). Emotion, decision making and the orbitofrontal cortex. Cerebral Cortex, 10, 295307. doi:10.1093/cercor/10.3.295
Bechara, A., Damasio, A.R., Damasio, H., Anderson, S.W. (1994). Insensitivity to future consequences following damage to human prefrontal cortex. Cognition, 50, 715. doi:10.1016/0010-0277(94)90018-3
Bier, N., Macoir, J. (2009). How to make a spaghetti sauce with a dozen small things I cannot name: A review of the impact of semantic-memory deficits on everyday actions. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 32, 201211. doi:10.1080/13803390902927885
Bier, N., Macoir, J., Hudon, C., Bottari, C., Joubert, S. (2009). Agir sur le monde qui nous entoure: Réflexions sur l'interrelation entre la mémoire sémantique, les actions routinières et la résolution de problèmes [Interacting with the world around us: Reflections on the relationship between semantic memory, everyday actions and problem solving]. Revue de Neuropsychologie, 1, 229237.
Bier, N., Macoir, J., Joubert, S., Bottari, C., Chayer, C., Pigot, H., … the SemAssist Team (2011). Cooking “shrimp à la créole”: A pilot study of an ecological rehabilitation in semantic dementia. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 21, 455483. doi:10.1080/09602011.2011.580614
Binder, J.R., Desai, R.H. (2011). The neurobiology of semantic memory. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 15, 527536. doi:S1364-6613(11)00214-2
Bottari, C., Dassa, C., Rainville, C., Dutil, E. (2009a). The criterion-related validity of the IADL Profile with measures of executive functions, indices of trauma severity and sociodemographic characteristics. Brain Injury, 23, 322335. doi:10.1080/02699050902788436
Bottari, C., Dassa, C., Rainville, C., Dutil, E. (2009b). The factorial validity and internal consistency of the instrumental activities of daily living profile in individuals with a traumatic brain injury. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 19, 177207. doi:901753073
Bottari, C., Dassa, C., Rainville, C., Dutil, E. (2010a). A generalizability study of the instrumental activities of daily living profile. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 91, 734742. doi:10.1016/j.apmr.2009.12.023
Bottari, C.L., Dassa, C., Rainville, C.M., Dutil, E. (2010b). The IADL profile: Development, content validity, intra- and interrater agreement. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 77, 90100. doi:10.2182/cjot.2010.77.2.5
Bottari, C., Gosselin, N., Guillemette, M., Lamoureux, J., Ptito, A. (2011). Independence in managing one's finances after traumatic brain injury. Brain Injury, 25, 13061317. doi:10.3109/02699052.2011.624570
Botvinick, M., Plaut, D.C. (2004). Doing without schema hierarchies: A recurrent connectionist approach to normal and impaired routine sequential action. Psychology Review, 111, 395429. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.111.2.395
Bozeat, S., Lambon-Ralph, M.A., Patterson, K., Hodges, J.R. (2002). When objects lose their meaning: What happens to their use? Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience, 2, 236251. doi:10.3758/CABN.2.3.236
Brambati, S.M., Rankin, K.P., Narvid, J., Seeley, W.W., Dean, D., Rosen, H.J., Gorno-Tempini, M.L. (2009). Atrophy progression in semantic dementia with asymmetric temporal involvement: A tensor-based morphometry study. Neurobiology of Aging, 30, 103111. doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2007.05.014
Burgess, P.W., Shallice, T. (1997). The Hayling and Brixton Tests. Thurston, UK: Thames Valley Test Company.
Buxbaum, L.J., Kalenine, S. (2010). Action knowledge, visuomotor activation, and embodiment in the two action systems. Annals of the New York Academy of Science, 1191, 201218. doi:NYAS5447
Buxbaum, L.J., Schwartz, M., Carew, T.G. (1997). The role of semantic memory in object use. Cognitive Neuropsychologie, 14, 219254. doi:10.1080/026432997381565
Callahan, B.L., Macoir, J., Hudon, C., Bier, N., Chouinard, N., Cossette-Harvey, M., Potvin, O. (2010). Normative Data for the Pyramids and Palm Trees Test in the Quebec-French Population. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 25, 212217. doi:10.1093/arclin/acq013
Coccia, M., Bartolini, M., Luzzi, S., Provinciali, L., Lambon-Ralph, M. (2004). Semantic memory is an amodal, dynamic system: Evidence from the interaction of naming and object use in semantic dementia. Cognitive Neuropsychoogy, 21, 513527.
Cooper, R. (2002). Order and disorder in everyday action: The roles of contention scheduling and supervisory attention. Neurocase, 8, 6178.
Cooper, R., Schwartz, M.F., Yule, P., Shallice, T. (2005). The simulation of action disorganisation in complex activities of daily living. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 22, 9591004. doi:10.1080/02643290442000419
Cooper, R., Shallice, T. (2000). Contention scheduling and the control of routine activities. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 17, 297338.
Cooper, R., Shallice, T. (2006). Hierarchical schemas and goals in the control of sequential behaviour. Psychological Review, 113, 887916. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.113.4.887
Cooper, R.P. (2007). Tool use and related errors in ideational apraxia: The quantitative simulation of patient error profiles. Cortex, 43, 319337. doi:10.1016/S0010-9452(08)70458-1
Crawford, J.R., Howell, D.C. (1998). Comparing an individual's test score against norms derived from small samples. The Clinical Neuropsychologist, 12, 482486. doi:10.1076/clin.12.4.482.7241
Delis, D.C., Kaplan, E., Kramer, J.H. (2001). Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS). San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.
Deloche, G., Hannequin, D. (1997). Test de dénomination orale d'images-DO 80 [Oral naming test of images – DO 80]. Paris: Éditions du Centre de Psychologie Appliquée.
Desgranges, B., Matuszewski, V., Piolino, P., Chetelat, G., Mezenge, F., Landeau, B., Eustache, F. (2007). Anatomical and functional alterations in semantic dementia: A voxel-based MRI and PET study. Neurobiology of Aging, 28, 19041913. doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2006.08.006
Fastenau, P.S., Denburg, N.L., Hufford, B.J. (1999). Adult norms for the Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure Test and for supplemental recognition and matching trials from the Extended Complex Figure Test. The Clinical Neuropsychologist, 13, 3047. doi:10.1076/clin.
Folstein, M.F., Folstein, S.E., McHugh, P.R. (1975). Mini-Mental State: A practical method for grading the cognitive state of patients for the clinician. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 12, 189198.
Funnell, E. (2001). Evidence for scripts in semantic dementia: Implications for theories of semantic memory. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 18, 323341. doi:10.1080/02643290042000134
Galambos, J.A. (1986). Knowledge structures for common activities. In J. A. Galambos, R. P. Abelson, & J. B. Black (Eds.), Knowledge structures (pp. 2147). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Galambos, J.A., Rips, L.J. (1982). Memory four routines. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 21, 260281.
Godbout, L., Doyon, J. (1995). Mental representation of knowledge following frontal-lobe or postrolandic lesions. Neuropsychologia, 33, 16711696. doi:10.1016/0028-3932(95)00047-X
Grafman, J. (1995). Similarities and distinctions among current models of prefrontal cortical functions. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 769, 337338. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1995.tb38149.x
Grafman, J. (2002). The structured event complex and the human prefrontal cortex. In D. T. Stuss & R. T. Knight (Eds.), Principles of frontal lobe function (pp. 292310). New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.
Grafman, J., Thompson, K., Weingartner, H., Martinez, R., Lawlor, B.A., Sunderland, T. (1991). Script generation as an indicator of knowledge representation in patients with Alzheimer's disease. Brain and Language, 40, 344358. doi:10.1016/0093-934X(91)90134-M
Hamanaka, T., Matsui, A., Yoshida, S., Nakanishi, M., Fujita, K., Banno, T. (1996). Cerebral laterality and category-specificity in cases of semantic memory impairment with PET findings associated with identification amnesia for familiar faces. Brain and Cognition, 30, 368372.
Hodges, J.R., Bozeat, S., Lambon-Ralph, M.A., Patterson, K., Spatt, J. (2000). The role of conceptual knowledge in object use – Evidence from semantic dementia. Brain, 123, 19131925. doi:10.1093/brain/123.9.1913
Hodges, J.R., Patterson, K., Oxbury, S., Funnel, E. (1992). Semantic dementia: Progessive fluent aphasia with temporal lobe atrophy. Brain, 115, 17831806.
Hodges, J.R., Spatt, J., Patterson, K. (1999). “What and how”: Evidence for the dissociation of object knowledge and mecanical problem-solving skills in the human brain. Proceeding of The National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 96, 94449448. doi:10.1073/pnas.96.16.9444
Howard, D., Patterson, K. (1992). The pyramids and palm trees test: A test for semantic access from words and pictures. Bury St Edmunds: Thames Valley Test Company.
Humphreys, G.W., Forde, E.M.E. (1998). Disordered action schema and action disorganisation syndrome. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 15, 771811.
Joanette, Y., Ska, B., Poissant, A., Belleville, S., Lecours, A.R., Peretz, I. (Eds.). (1995). Protocole d’évaluation optimale neuropsychologique (PENO) [Optimal Neuropsychological Evaluation Protocole]. Centre de recherche en santé et vieillissement, Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal (CAN): Université de Montréal.
Kashibayashi, T., Ikeda, M., Komori, K., Shinagawa, S., Shimizu, H., Toyota, Y., Tanimukai, S. (2010). Transition of distinctive symptoms of semantic dementia during longitudinal clinical observation. Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, 29, 224232. doi:10.1159/000269972
Krueger, F., Spampinato, M.V., Barbey, A.K., Huey, E.D., Morland, T., Grafman, J. (2009). The frontopolar cortex mediates event knowledge complexity: A parametric functional MRI study. Neuroreport, 20, 10931097. doi:10.1097/WNR.0b013e32832e7ea5
Lauro-Grotto, R., Piccini, C., Shallice, T. (1997). Modality-specific operations in semantic dementia. Cortex, 33, 593622. doi:10.1016/S0010-9452(08)70720-2
Lojek-Osiejuk, E. (1996). Knowledge of scripts reflected in discourse of aphasics and right-brain-damaged patients. Brain Lang, 53, 5880. doi:10.1006/brln.1996.0037
Macoir, J., Gauthier, S., Jean, C. (2005). Batterie d’Évaluation Cognitive du Langage chez l'Adulte (BECLA). Québec: Université Laval.
Martin, A., Wiggs, C.L., Ungerleider, L.G., Haxby, J.V. (2000). Category specificity and the brain the sensory/motor model of semantic representations of objects. In M.S. Gazzaniga (Ed.), The new cognitive neurosciences (pp. 10231036). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Mattis, S. (1976). Mental status examination for organic mental syndrome in the elderly patient. In L. Bellak & T. B. Karasu (Eds.), Geriatric psychiatry (pp. 77121). New York: Grune and Stratton.
Mioshi, E., Hodges, J.R. (2009). Rate of change of functional abilities in frontotemporal dementia. Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, 28, 419426. doi:10.1159/000255652
Mioshi, E., Kipps, C.M., Dawson, K., Mitchell, J., Graham, A., Hodges, J.R. (2007). Activities of daily living in frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer disease. Neurology, 68, 20772084. doi:10.1212/01.wnl.0000264897.13722.53
Neary, D., Snowden, J.S., Gustafson, L., Passant, U., Stuss, D., Black, S., Benson, D.F. (1998). Frontotemporal lobar degeneration: A consensus on clinical diagnostic criteria. Neurology, 51, 15461554.
Negri, G.A., Lunardelli, A., Reverberi, C., Gigli, G.L., Rumiati, R.I. (2007). Degraded semantic knowledge and accurate object use. Cortex, 43, 376388. doi:10.1016/S0010-9452(08)70463-5
Rey, A. (1960). Test de la Figure complexe de Rey.[Rey Complex Figure Test]. Paris: Les Éditions du Centre de Psychologie Appliquée.
Riddoch, M.J., Humphreys, G.W. (Eds.). (1993). Birmingham Object Recognition Battery (BORB). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Riddoch, M.J., Humphreys, G.W., Heslop, J., Castermans, E. (2002). Dissociations between object knowledge and everyday action. Neurocase, 8, 100110. doi:10.1093/neucas/8.1.100
Rizzolatti, G., Fogassi, L., Gallese, V. (2001). Neurophysiological mechanisms underlying the understanding and imitation of actions. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 12, 661670. doi:10.1038/35090060
Rosen, H.J., Allison, S.C., Ogar, J.M., Amici, S., Rose, K., Dronkers, N., Gorno-Tempini, M.L. (2006). Behavioral features in semantic dementia vs other forms of progressive aphasias. Neurology, 67, 17521756. doi:10.1212/01.wnl.0000247630.29222.34
Rosen, H.J., Gorno-Tempini, M.L., Goldman, W.P., Perry, R.J., Schuff, N., Weiner, M., Miller, B.L. (2002). Patterns of brain atrophy in frontotemporal dementia and semantic dementia. Neurology, 58, 198208.
Schank, R., Abelson, R. (1977). Scripts, plans, goals and understanding: An inquiry into human knowledge structures. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Shinagawa, S., Ikeda, M., Fukuhara, R., Tanabe, H. (2006). Initial symptoms in frontotemporal dementia and semantic dementia compared with Alzheimer's disease. Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, 21, 7480. doi:10.1159/000090139
Sirigu, A., Zalla, T., Pillon, B., Grafman, J., Dubois, B., Agid, Y. (1995). Planning and script analysis following prefrontal lobe lesions. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 769, 277288. doi:10. 1111/j.1749-6632.1995.tb38145.x
Snowden, J.S., Bathgate, D., Varma, A., Blackshaw, A., Gibbons, Z.C., Neary, D. (2001). Distinct behavioural profiles in frontotemporal dementia and semantic dementia. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, 70, 323332. doi:10.1136/jnnp.70.3.323
Spreen, O., Strauss, E. (Eds.). (1998). A compendium of neuropsychological tests. New York: Orford University Press, Inc.
Weschler, D. (1987). Wechsler Memory Scale – Revised. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

The Impact of Semantic Dementia on Everyday Actions: Evidence from an Ecological Study

  • Nathalie Bier (a1) (a2), Carolina Bottari (a1) (a3), Carol Hudon (a4) (a5), Sven Joubert (a2) (a6), Guillaume Paquette (a2) and Joël Macoir (a5) (a7)...


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.