A fresh look at the predictors of naming accuracy and errors in Alzheimer's disease


Fernando Cuetos, Facultad de Psicología, Universidad de Oviedo, Plaza Feijoo, s/n, 33003 Oviedo, Spain (e-mail: fcuetos@uniovi.es).


In recent years, a considerable number of studies have tried to establish which characteristics of objects and their names predict the responses of patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) in the picture-naming task. The frequency of use of words and their age of acquisition (AoA) have been implicated as two of the most influential variables, with naming being best preserved for objects with high-frequency, early-acquired names. The present study takes a fresh look at the predictors of naming success in Spanish and English AD patients using a range of measures of word frequency and AoA along with visual complexity, imageability, and word length as predictors. Analyses using generalized linear mixed modelling found that naming accuracy was better predicted by AoA ratings taken from older adults than conventional ratings from young adults. Older frequency measures based on written language samples predicted accuracy better than more modern measures based on the frequencies of words in film subtitles. Replacing adult frequency with an estimate of cumulative (lifespan) frequency did not reduce the impact of AoA. Semantic error rates were predicted by both written word frequency and senior AoA while null response errors were only predicted by frequency. Visual complexity, imageability, and word length did not predict naming accuracy or errors.