Writing kanji without semantics in a case with probable Alzheimer's disease

Atsuko Hayashi, Kyoko Suzuki, Yoshitaka Ohigashi, Yoko Takatsuki, Yoko Nakano, Atsushi Yamadori, Etsuro Mori

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3 Citations (Scopus)


We examined a patient (NM) with probable Alzheimer's disease who showed phonologically plausible errors in kanji (logogram) writing. In semantic tasks, she showed no deficits in pointing or naming but had difficulty in more complex tasks such as proverb comprehension. In reading aloud of kanji words, she could read most kanji words correctly and showed little phonologically plausible reading errors. She performed poorly in lexical decision and on-reading of one-letter kanji (Sino-Japanese pronunciation derived from the Chinese language at the time of borrowing). Writing to dictation demonstrated no mistakes in kana letters and words, but many errors in kanji, which were phonologically equivalent but semantically inappropriate. To explore the relationship between the writing errors in kanji words and comprehension of the word meanings, we selected 33 words that she made phonologically plausible writing errors. We gave her the following five tasks using these words; 1) to ask meanings of the words, 2) to dictate the words, 3) to dictate sentences including these words, 4) to discriminate appropriate target words from distracters including her own erroneous responses, and 5) to write these words again. She showed no consistent errors in these tasks. In some occasions, she could write correct kanji words without understanding word meanings. She also showed phonologically plausible writing errors in spite of describing correct word meanings. In Japanese, word meaning deficits like Gogi aphasia were thought to cause phonologically plausible writing errors. As the impairments of word meanings in NM are comparatively mild, the underpinning of her kanji agraphias might be different from that of phonologically plausible errors in Gogi aphasia. It would be suggested that she frequently wrote phonologically equivalent errors because of her lexical deficits in spite that her phonological processing was preserved. Furthermore, she would not necessarily use the semantics (word meanings) of kanji words during dictation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-488
Number of pages8
JournalBrain and Nerve
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Phonologically plausible writing errors
  • Word-meaning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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