The disconnection syndrome in the Alzheimer's disease: The cross-modal priming example

Implicit memory is generally supposed to be preserved in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Yet, some implicit priming effects are impaired and others are not. The preserved/impaired priming effects are often interpreted according to the perceptual/conceptual or identification/production distinctions. Perceptual-identification priming paradigms shall be preserved and conceptual-production priming paradigms impaired. A third interpretation is yet possible based on the disconnection syndrome hypothesis which states that patients with AD should fail tasks requiring relatively complex brain communications. In this case, patients with AD should not demonstrated a significant perceptual priming effect in an identification task if this one involved complex brain communications. The present study tests this latter hypothesis with two cross-modal priming experiments using a categorization task. A visual meaningless mask presented with half of the auditory primes tested the nature of the cross-modal priming effect. The control group exhibited significant priming effects for unmasked primes. The interference effect of the mask demonstrated that the priming effect was perceptually driven. Patients with AD did not present any priming effect nor mask interference. The present findings therefore showed that perceptual priming using an identification task could be impaired in AD supporting the disconnection syndrome hypothesis.