SD-squared: On the association between semantic dementia and surface dyslexia

Anna M. Woollams, Matthew A Lambon Ralph, David C. Plaut, Karalyn Patterson

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    Within the connectionist triangle model of reading aloud, interaction between semantic and phonological representations occurs for all words but is particularly important for correct pronunciation of lower frequency exception words. This framework therefore predicts that (a) semantic dementia, which compromises semantic knowledge, should be accompanied by surface dyslexia, a frequency-modulated deficit in exception word reading, and (b) there should be a significant relationship between the severity of semantic degradation and the severity of surface dyslexia. The authors evaluated these claims with reference to 100 observations of reading data from 51 cases of semantic dementia. Surface dyslexia was rampant, and a simple composite semantic measure accounted for half of the variance in low-frequency exception word reading. Although in 3 cases initial testing revealed a moderate semantic impairment but normal exception word reading, all of these became surface dyslexic as their semantic knowledge deteriorated further. The connectionist account attributes such cases to premorbid individual variation in semantic reliance for accurate exception word reading. These results provide a striking demonstration of the association between semantic dementia and surface dyslexia, a phenomenon that the authors have dubbed SD-squared. PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)316-339
    Number of pages23
    JournalPsychological Review
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2007


    • Frequency
    • Reading aloud
    • Regularity
    • Semantic dementia
    • Semantic memory
    • Surface dyslexia


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