Journal List > Dement Neurocogn Disord > v.13(1) > 1120731

Dement Neurocogn Disord. 2014 Mar;13(1):7-15. Korean.
Published online Mar 31, 2014.
© 2014 Korean Dementia Association
Word Definition Ability in Patients with Alzheimer's disease
Sunghee Lim, M.A.,* Miseon Kwon, Ph.D., Hyun-Sub Sim, Ph.D., SangYun Kim, M.D.,§ and Jun-Young Lee, M.D.
*Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Korea University Anam Hospital, Seoul, Korea.
Department of Neurology, Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
Department of Communication Disorders, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, Korea.
§Department of Neurology, Seoul National University College of Medicine & Clinical Neuroscience Center, Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, Seongnam, Korea.
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Seoul National University College of Medicine, SMG-SNU Boramae Medical Center, Seoul, Korea.

Address for correspondence: Hyun-Sub Sim, Ph.D. Department of Communication Disorders, Ewha Womans University, 52 Ewhayeodae-gil, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul 120-750, Korea. Tel: +82-2-3277-3538, Fax: +82-2-3277-2120, Email:
Received Mar 07, 2014; Revised Mar 28, 2014; Accepted Mar 28, 2014.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.



The purposes of this study were (1) to investigate the abilities of word definition in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) according to the severity, and (2) to examine the error patterns in patients with Alzheimer's disease.


Eight individuals with MCI (CDR=0.5) and 16 patients with AD (eight for probable AD mild group of CDR=1 and eight for probable AD moderate group of CDR=2) participated in the study. Eight normal age-, gender-, and education-matched elderly adults served as a control group for the MCI and AD groups. As stimuli for the word definition, eleven semantic categories were used, and two concrete words were selected from each category, resulting in a total of 22 items. Prior to the task, four definition categories were provided: 1) functional, 2) relational, 3) perceptual, and 4) categorical. Statistical analyses were performed using Kruskal-Wallis test, and Bonferroni analyses were used as a post-hoc comparison for any significant results.


There were significant differences in word definition scores among four groups. The probable AD moderate group showed the lower definition score than the probable AD mild group. And the probable AD moderate group showed the lower definition score than MCI group. Each group defined words in different ways. While the control group employed four definition different categories equally, the probable AD moderate group used a functional definition category mainly. However, relational and categorical definition categories were rarely observed in the probable AD moderate group. The analysis of error pattern showed that inadequate definition was frequently observed in all groups.


The results from this study suggest that word definition task could be a sensitive indicator of the impairment of semantic knowledge in patients with AD.

Keywords: Word definition abilities; Alzheimer's disease; Mild cognitive impairment


Table 1
The characteristics of subjects
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Table 2
Results of the word definition task
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Table 3
Frequency and ratios of four definition categories
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Table 4
Type of error and frequency
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Appendix 1

Target word list

Appendix 2

Classification and examples of definition categories

Appendix 3

An example of word definition task scoring

Appendix 4

Scoring criteria of definition task (Examples)

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