DOI: 10.1002/alz.074399 ISSN: 1552-5260

Characterizing the yes‐no reversal phenomenon in patients with primary progressive apraxia of speech

Gabriela Meade, Christopher G. Schwarz, Heather M Clark, Joseph R Duffy, Hugo Botha, Jennifer L Whitwell, Keith A Josephs, Rene L Utianski
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Neurology (clinical)
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Health Policy
  • Epidemiology



Patients with a yes‐no reversal verbally and non‐verbally respond “yes” when they mean “no” and vice versa. They are typically aware of the error and able to correct it given additional time. This symptom commonly, but not exclusively, occurs in patients with primary progressive apraxia of speech (PPAOS). PPAOS is a form of frontotemporal dementia associated with hypometabolism in the supplementary motor area (SMA; e.g., Utianski et al., 2018); as the disease progresses, a wider network of frontal and subcortical regions become implicated. Behaviorally, this symptom seems to reflect poor response inhibition, but the specific anatomical underpinning is not yet understood. Given the brain regions known to be involved in PPAOS, we hypothesized that yes‐no reversals emerge due to degeneration of regions near the SMA and/or frontostriatal regions.


We conducted an exploratory retrospective study of 28 patients who presented with PPAOS and had an FDG‐PET scan; 14 (50%) endorsed yes‐no reversals (see Table 1 for group characteristics). Clinically, AOS severity was measured using clinician ratings (0 = absent, 4 = severe) and frontal dysfunction was captured by the Frontal Assessment Battery (FAB) and the Frontal Behavioral Inventory (FBI). We also measured median standardized uptake value ratios (SUVRs) in the SMA and pre‐SMA, as well as the head and body of the caudate with automated, in‐house software. The caudate ROI was selected based on visual comparison of the FDG‐PET scans between groups and the association between this region and inhibition during response interference (e.g., Schmidt et al., 2020).


Neither AOS severity nor hypometabolism in the pre‐SMA/SMA regions differed significantly between groups. In contrast, patients with a yes‐no reversal demonstrated significantly lower scores on the FAB and greater hypometabolism in the caudate body relative to patients without (see Figure 1).


Results suggest that yes‐no reversals relate to frontostriatal dysfunction rather than AOS severity or SMA activity in these patients. Further research is needed to address why a disproportionate number of patients with PPAOS develop this symptom.

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