Language deficits in pre-symptomatic Huntington's disease: Evidence from Hungarian

Dezso Nemeth, Cristina D. Dye, Tamás Sefcsik, Karolina Janacsek, Zsolt Turi, Zsuzsa Londe, Péter Klivenyi, Zsigmond Tamás Kincses, Nikoletta Szabó, László Vecsei, Michael T. Ullman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)


A limited number of studies have investigated language in Huntington's disease (HD). These have generally reported abnormalities in rule-governed (grammatical) aspects of language, in both syntax and morphology. Several studies of verbal inflectional morphology in English and French have reported evidence of over-active rule processing, such as over-suffixation errors (e.g., walkeded) and over-regularizations (e.g., digged). Here we extend the investigation to noun inflection in Hungarian, a Finno-Ugric agglutinative language with complex morphology, and to genetically proven pre-symptomatic Huntington's disease (pre-HD). Although individuals with pre-HD have no clinical, motor or cognitive symptoms, the underlying pathology may already have begun, and thus sensitive behavioral measures might reveal already-present impairments. Indeed, in a Hungarian morphology production task, pre-HD patients made both over-suffixation and over-regularization errors. The findings suggest the generality of over-active rule processing in both HD and pre-HD, across languages from different families with different morphological systems, and for both verbal and noun inflection. Because the neuropathology in pre-HD appears to be largely restricted to the caudate nucleus and related structures, the findings further implicate these structures in language, and in rule-processing in particular. Finally, the need for effective treatments in HD, which will likely depend in part on the ability to sensitively measure early changes in the disease, suggests the possibility that inflectional morphology, and perhaps other language measures, may provide useful diagnostic, tracking, and therapeutic tools for assessing and treating early degeneration in pre-HD and HD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-253
Number of pages6
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


  • Basal ganglia
  • Caudate nucleus
  • Hungarian
  • Language production
  • Pre-symptomatic Huntington's disease
  • Regular and irregular morphology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Speech and Hearing

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    Nemeth, D., Dye, C. D., Sefcsik, T., Janacsek, K., Turi, Z., Londe, Z., Klivenyi, P., Kincses, Z. T., Szabó, N., Vecsei, L., & Ullman, M. T. (2012). Language deficits in pre-symptomatic Huntington's disease: Evidence from Hungarian. Brain and Language, 121(3), 248-253.