Reversing Ribot: Does regression hold in language of prodromal Alzheimer’s disease?
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We consider the regression or retrogenesis hypothesis, which argues that order of acquisition in development is reversed in neurodegeneration or pathology. Originally proposed as a regression hypothesis for the study of memory disorders, specifically retrograde amnesia, by Ribot (1881), it has been extended to the study of brain aging and pathology and to language. We investigate this hypothesis in a new study of language development, aging, and pathology. Through interuniversity collaboration using a matched experimental design and task, we compare production of complex sentences containing relative clauses by normal monolingual children during normal development, healthy young adults, healthy aging adults, and aging adults diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, a recognized potential harbinger of Alzheimer's disease. Our results refute the regression hypothesis in this area and lead to potential syntactic markers for prodromal Alzheimer's disease and predictions for future brain imaging analyses.