Background and Objectives: Most primary progressive aphasia (PPA) literature is based on English language users. Linguistic features that vary from English, such as logographic writing systems, are underinvestigated. The current study characterized the dysgraphia phenotypes of patients with PPA who write in Chinese and investigated their diagnostic utility in classifying PPA variants.
Methods: This study recruited 40 participants with PPA and 20 cognitively normal participants from San Francisco, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. We measured dictation accuracy using the Chinese Language Assessment for PPA (CLAP) 60-character orthographic dictation test and examined the occurrence of various writing errors across the study groups. We also performed voxel-based morphometry analysis to identify the gray matter regions correlated with dictation accuracy and prevalence of writing errors.
Results: All PPA groups produced significantly less accurate writing responses than the control group and no significant differences in dictation accuracy were noted among the PPA variants. With a cut score of 36 out of 60 in the CLAP orthographic dictation task, the test achieved sensitivity and specificity of 90% and 95% in identifying Chinese participants with PPA vs controls. In addition to a character frequency effect, dictation accuracy was affected by homophone density and the number of strokes in semantic variant PPA and logopenic variant PPA groups. Dictation accuracy was correlated with volumetric changes over left ventral temporal cortices, regions known to be critical for orthographic long-term memory. Individuals with semantic variant PPA frequently presented with phonologically plausible errors at lexical level, patients with logopenic variant PPA showed higher preponderance towards visual and stroke errors, and patients with nonfluent/agrammatic variant PPA commonly exhibited compound word and radical errors. The prevalence of phonologically plausible, visual, and compound word errors was negatively correlated with cortical volume over the bilateral temporal regions, left temporo-occipital area, and bilateral orbitofrontal gyri, respectively.
Discussion: The findings demonstrate the potential role of the orthographic dictation task as a screening tool and PPA classification indicator in Chinese language users. Each PPA variant had specific Chinese dysgraphia phenotypes that vary from those previously reported in English-speaking patients with PPA, highlighting the importance of language diversity in PPA. Copyright © 2022 American Academy of Neurology.