Theories of semantic memory are informed, not only through studies of healthy individuals, but also through studies of individuals with neurologic condition. This chapter examines the neural correlates of semantic impairments, leading to an examination of theories of semantic memory motivated by analyses of semantic breakdown in individuals with degenerative and acute neurologic conditions. Studies of optic aphasia and category-specific aphasias in particular influence discussions of modality-specific versus unitary views on the structure of semantic memory. Recent work has turned to examining the structure of semantic representations themselves. Studies of patients with herpes encephalitis, Alzheimer’s dementia, and semantic dementia shed light on the perceptual and functional attributes of semantic features, as compared to notions of embodied semantic representations. Studies of patients with neurologic conditions highlight the richness of semantic knowledge and the dynamic interplay among features of semantic representations used for daily life semantic processing tasks.
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