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Learning Disabilities May Signal Dementia Risk

Primary progressive aphasia associated with higher frequency of learning problems

MONDAY, Feb. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Learning disabilities may signal increased familial risk of primary progressive aphasia, according to research published in the February issue of the Archives of Neurology.

Emily Rogalski, Ph.D., of Northwestern University in Chicago, and colleagues conducted a study of 699 subjects including groups with primary progressive aphasia, typical amnestic Alzheimer's disease, and the behavioral variant of frontotemporal dementia, as well as one group of elderly controls. The subjects completed a report on individual and family history of learning disabilities.

There was a significantly higher incidence of learning disabilities among patients with primary progressive aphasia as well as their first-degree relatives compared to the other dementia groups and the controls. In some families of primary progressive aphasia patients, there were concentrations of learning disabilities, notably dyslexia.

"These results suggest that learning disabilities may constitute a risk factor for primary progressive aphasia, providing additional clues concerning the determinants for the selective vulnerability of the language network in this syndrome," the authors conclude. "The common feature, for which learning disabilities may be an antecedent risk factor, is the anatomical locus of involvement at the level of a specific interconnected neural network rather than the nature of the underlying disease."

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