Loss of fluency is a significant source of functional impairment in many individuals with aphasia. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) administered to the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) has been shown to facilitate naming in persons with chronic left hemisphere stroke and non-fluent aphasia. However, changes in fluency in aphasic subjects receiving rTMS have not been adequately explored.
To determine whether rTMS improves fluency in individuals with chronic nonfluent aphasia, and to identify aspects of fluency that are modulated in persons who respond to rTMS.
Methods & Procedures
Ten individuals with left hemisphere MCA strokes and mild to moderate non-fluent aphasia participated in the study. Before treatment, subjects were asked to describe the Cookie Theft picture in three separate sessions. During treatment, all subjects received 1200 pulses of 1 Hz rTMS daily in 10 sessions over two weeks at a site that had previously been shown to improve naming. Subjects repeated the Cookie Theft description two months after treatment. Five subjects initially received sham stimulation instead of real TMS. Two months after sham treatment, these individuals received real rTMS. Performance both at baseline and after stimulation was coded using Quantitative Production Analysis (Saffran, Berndt & Schwartz, 1989) and Correct Information Unit (Nicholas & Brookshire, 1993) analysis.
Outcomes & Results
Across all subjects (n=10), real rTMS treatment resulted in a significant increase in multiple measures of discourse productivity compared to baseline performance. There was no significant increase in measures of sentence productivity or grammatical accuracy. There was no significant increase from baseline in the sham condition (n=5) on any study measures.
Stimulation of the right IFG in patients with chronic non-fluent aphasia facilitates discourse production. We posit that this effect may be attributable to improved lexical-semantic access.
Language; aphasia; TMS; pars triangularis; fluency; neurorehabilitation
There are several methods of delivering cortical brain stimulation to modulate cortical excitability and interest in their application as an adjuvant strategy in aphasia rehabilitation after stroke is growing. Epidural cortical stimulation, although more invasive than other methods, permits high frequency stimulation of high spatial specificity to targeted neuronal populations.
First, we review evidence supporting the use of epidural cortical stimulation for upper limb recovery after focal cortical injury in both animal models and human stroke survivors. These data provide the empirical and theoretical platform underlying the use of epidural cortical stimulation in aphasia. Second, we summarize evidence for the application of epidural cortical stimulation in aphasia. We describe the procedures and primary outcomes of a safety and feasibility study (Cherney, Erickson & Small, 2010), and provide previously unpublished data regarding secondary behavioral outcomes from that study.
In a controlled study comparing epidural cortical stimulation plus language treatment (CS/LT) to language treatment alone (LT), eight stroke survivors with nonfluent aphasia received intensive language therapy for 6 weeks. Four of these participants also underwent surgical implantation of an epidural stimulation device which was activated only during therapy sessions. Behavioral data were collected before treatment, immediately after treatment, and at 6 and 12 weeks following the end of treatment. The effect size for the primary outcome measure, the Western Aphasia Battery Aphasia Quotient, was benchmarked as moderate from baseline to immediately post-treatment, and large from baseline to the 12-week follow-up. Similarly, effect sizes obtained at the 12-week follow-up for the Boston Naming Test, the Communicative Effectiveness Index, and for correct information units on a picture description task were greater than those obtained immediately post treatment. When effect sizes were compared for individual subject pairs on discourse measures of content and rate, effects were typically larger for the investigational subjects receiving CS/LT than for the control subjects receiving LT alone. These analyses support previous findings regarding therapeutic efficacy of CS/LT compared to LT i.e. epidural stimulation of ipsilesional premotor cortex may augment behavioral speech-language therapy, with the largest effects after completion of therapy.
Continued investigation of epidural cortical stimulation in combination with language training in post-stroke aphasia should proceed cautiously. Carefully planned studies that customize procedures to individual profiles are warranted. Information from research on non-invasive methods of CS/LT may also inform future studies of epidural cortical stimulation.
This manuscript reports generalization effects of Contextual Constraint Treatment for an adult with right hemisphere brain damage (RHD). Contextual Constraint Treatment is designed to stimulate inefficient language comprehension processes implicitly, by providing linguistic context to prime, or constrain, the intended interpretations of treatment stimuli. The study participant had a coarse coding deficit, defined as delayed mental activation of particularly distant semantic features of words (e.g., rotten as a feature of “apple”). Treatment effects were expected to generalize to auditory comprehension of narrative discourse, and perhaps to figurative language interpretation, because coarse coding has been hypothesized and/or demonstrated to support these abilities.
This treatment study aimed to induce generalization of Contextual Constraint Treatment in an adult with RHD with inefficient coarse coding.
Methods & Procedures
The participant in this study was a 75 year old man with RHD and a coarse coding deficit. A single subject experimental design across behaviors (stimulus lists) was used to document performance in baseline, treatment, and follow-up phases. Treatment consisted of providing brief, spoken context sentences to prestimulate, or constrain, intended interpretations of stimulus items. The participant made no explicit associations or metalinguistic judgments about the constraint sentences or stimulus words; rather, these contexts served only as implicit primes. Probe tasks were adapted from prior work on coarse coding in RHD. The dependent measure was the percentage of responses that met predetermined response time criteria. There were two levels of contextual constraint, Strong and Moderate. Treatment for each item began with the provision of the Strong constraint context, to minimize the production or reinforcement of erroneous or exceedingly slow responses. Generalization was assessed to a well-standardized measure of narrative discourse comprehension and to several metalinguistic tasks of figurative language interpretation.
Outcomes & Results
Treatment-contingent gains, associated with respectable effect sizes, were evident after a brief period of treatment on one stimulus list. Generalization occurred to untrained items, suggesting that the treatment was facilitating the underlying coarse coding process. Most importantly, generalization was evident to narrative comprehension performance, for both overall accuracy and accuracy answering questions about implied information, and all of these gains maintained through three follow-up sessions.
Though the results are still preliminary, this single-subject experimental design documents the potential for meaningful gains from a novel treatment that implicitly targets an underlying language comprehension process in an adult with RHD.
language comprehension; language comprehension treatment; language therapy; right hemisphere; brain damage; coarse coding
Word class naming deficits are commonly seen in aphasia resulting from stroke (StrAph) and primary progressive aphasia (PPA), with differential production of nouns (objects) and verbs (actions) found based on StrAph type or PPA variant for some individuals. Studies to date, however, have not compared word class naming (or comprehension) ability in the two aphasic disorders. In addition, there are no available measures for testing word class deficits, which control for important psycholinguistic variables across language domains. This study examined noun and verb production and comprehension in individuals with StrAph and PPA using a new test, the Northwestern Naming Battery (NNB; Thompson & Weintraub, experimental version), developed explicitly for this purpose. In addition, we tested verb type effects, based on verb argument structure characteristics, which also is addressed by the NNB.
Fifty-two participants with StrAph (33 agrammatic, Broca’s (StrAg); 19 anomic (StrAn)) and 28 PPA (10 agrammatic (PPA-G); 14 logopenic (PPA-L); 4 semantic (PPA-S)) were included in the study. Nouns and verbs were tested in the Confrontation Naming and Auditory Comprehension subtests of the NNB, with scores used to compute noun to verb ratios as well as performance by verb type. Performance patterns within and across StrAph and PPA groups were then examined. The external validity of the NNB also was tested by comparing (a) NNB Noun Naming scores to the Boston Naming Test (BNT; Kaplan, Goodglass, & Weintraub, 1983) and Western Aphasia Battery (WAB-R, Kertesz, 2007) Noun Naming subtest scores, (b) NNB Verb Naming scores to the Boston Diagnostic Aphasia Examination (BDAE; Goodglass, Kaplan & Barresi, 2001) Action Naming score (for StrAph participants only), and (c) NNB Comprehension subtest scores to WAB-R Auditory Comprehension subtest scores.
Outcomes and Results
Both agrammatic (StrAg and PPA-G) groups showed significantly greater difficulty producing verbs compared to nouns, but no comprehension impairment for either word class. Whereas, three of the four PPA-S participants showed poorer noun compared to verb production, as well as comprehension. However, neither the StrAn or PPA-L participants showed significant differences between the two word classes in production or comprehension. In addition, similar to the agrammatic participants, the StrAn participants showed a significant transitivity effect, producing intransitive (one-argument) verbs with greater accuracy than transitive (two- and three-argument) verbs. However, no transitivity effects were found for the PPA-L or PPA-S participants. There were significant correlations between NNB scores and all external validation measures.
These data indicate that the NNB is sensitive to word class deficits in stroke and neurodegenerative aphasia. This is important both clinically for treatment planning and theoretically to inform both psycholinguistic and neural models of language processing.
primary progressive aphasia (PPA); word class deficits; naming deficit patterns; verb argument structure production
Verbal working memory is an essential component of many language functions, including sentence comprehension and word learning. As such, working memory has emerged as a domain of intense research interest both in aphasiology and in the broader field of cognitive neuroscience. The integrity of verbal working memory encoding relies on a fluid interaction between semantic and phonological processes. That is, we encode verbal detail using many cues related to both the sound and meaning of words. Lesion models can provide an effective means of parsing the contributions of phonological or semantic impairment to recall performance.
Methods and Procedures
We employed the lesion model approach here by contrasting the nature of lexicality errors incurred during recall of word and nonword sequences by 3individuals with progressive nonfluent aphasia (a phonological dominant impairment) compared to that of 2 individuals with semantic dementia (a semantic dominant impairment). We focused on psycholinguistic attributes of correctly recalled stimuli relative to those that elicited a lexicality error (i.e., nonword → word OR word → nonword).
Outcomes and results
Patients with semantic dementia showed greater sensitivity to phonological attributes (e.g., phoneme length, wordlikeness) of the target items relative to semantic attributes (e.g., familiarity). Patients with PNFA showed the opposite pattern, marked by sensitivity to word frequency, age of acquisition, familiarity, and imageability.
We interpret these results in favor of a processing strategy such that in the context of a focal phonological impairment patients revert to an over-reliance on preserved semantic processing abilities. In contrast, a focal semantic impairment forces both reliance upon and hypersensitivity to phonological attributes of target words. We relate this interpretation to previous hypotheses about the nature of verbal short-term memory in progressive aphasia.
Working Memory; Recall; Semantic Dementia; Aphasia; Progressive Nonfluent Aphasia
Language performance in aphasia can vary depending on several variables such as stimulus characteristics and task demands. This study focuses on the degree of verbal working memory (WM) load inherent in the language task and how this variable affects language performance by individuals with aphasia.
The first aim was to identify the effects of increased verbal WM load on the performance of judgments of semantic similarity (synonymy) and phonological similarity (rhyming). The second aim was to determine if any of the following abilities could modulate the verbal WM load effect: semantic or phonological access, semantic or phonological short-term memory (STM) and any of the following executive processing abilities: inhibition, verbal WM updating, and set shifting.
Method and Procedures
Thirty-one individuals with aphasia and 11 controls participated in this study. They were administered a synonymy judgment task and a rhyming judgment task under high and low verbal WM load conditions that were compared to each other. In a second set of analyses, multiple regression was used to identify which factors (as noted above) modulated the verbal WM load effect.
Outcome and Results
For participants with aphasia, increased verbal WM load significantly reduced accuracy of performance on synonymy and rhyming judgments. Better performance in the low verbal WM load conditions was evident even after correcting for chance. The synonymy task included concrete and abstract word triplets. When these were examined separately, the verbal WM load effect was significant for the abstract words, but not the concrete words. The same pattern was observed in the performance of the control participants. Additionally, the second set of analyses revealed that semantic STM and one executive function, inhibition ability, emerged as the strongest predictors of the verbal WM load effect in these judgment tasks for individuals with aphasia.
The results of this study have important implications for diagnosis and treatment of aphasia. As the roles of verbal STM capacity, executive functions and verbal WM load in language processing are better understood, measurements of these variables can be incorporated into our diagnostic protocols. Moreover, if cognitive abilities such as STM and executive functions support language processing and their impairment adversely affects language function, treating them directly in the context of language tasks should translate into improved language function.
Previous research has suggested separable short-term memory (STM) buffers for the maintenance of phonological and lexical-semantic information, as some patients with aphasia show better ability to retain semantic than phonological information and others show the reverse. Recently, researchers have proposed that deficits to the maintenance of semantic information in STM are related to executive control abilities.
The present study investigated the relationship of executive function abilities with semantic and phonological short-term memory (STM) and semantic processing in such patients, as some previous research has suggested that semantic STM deficits and semantic processing abilities are critically related to specific or general executive function deficits.
Method and Procedures
20 patients with aphasia and STM deficits were tested on measures of short-term retention, semantic processing, and both complex and simple executive function tasks.
Outcome and Results
In correlational analyses, we found no relation between semantic STM and performance on simple or complex executive function tasks. In contrast, phonological STM was related to executive function performance in tasks that had a verbal component, suggesting that performance in some executive function tasks depends on maintaining or rehearsing phonological codes. Although semantic STM was not related to executive function ability, performance on semantic processing tasks was related to executive function, perhaps due to similar executive task requirements in both semantic processing and executive function tasks.
Implications for treatment and interpretations of executive deficits are discussed.
General agreement exists in the literature that individuals with aphasia can exhibit a working memory deficit that contributes to their language processing impairments. Though conceptualized within different working memory frameworks, researchers have suggested that individuals with aphasia have limited working memory capacity, impaired attention-control processes as well as impaired inhibitory mechanisms. However, across studies investigating working memory ability in individuals with aphasia, different measures have been used to quantify their working memory ability and identify the relationship between working memory and language performance.
The primary objectives of this article are to (1) review current working memory theoretical frameworks, (2) review tasks used to measure working memory, and (3) discuss findings from studies that have investigated working memory as they relate to language processing in aphasia.
Though findings have been consistent across studies investigating working memory ability in individuals with aphasia, discussion of how working memory is conceptualized and defined is often missing, as is discussion of results within a theoretical framework. This is critical, as working memory is conceptualized differently across the different theoretical frameworks. They differ in explaining what limits capacity and the source of individual differences as well as how information is encoded, maintained, and retrieved. When test methods are considered within a theoretical framework, specific hypotheses can be tested and stronger conclusions that are less susceptible to different interpretations can be made.
Working memory ability has been investigated in numerous studies with individuals with aphasia. To better understand the underlying cognitive constructs that contribute to the language deficits exhibited by individuals with aphasia, future investigations should operationally define the cognitive constructs of interest and discuss findings within theoretical frameworks.
There is still a dearth of information about grammatical aspects of language production in aphasia.
Making novel use of methods of elicited production aimed at testing the limits of competence, we studied three cases of chronic aphasia, stemming from major stroke. We asked: (1) Whether the elicited production method reveals sparing of language abilities not readily evidenced in spontaneous utterances or on conventional aphasia tests. (2) Which language production abilities survive damage to both Broca’s region and Wernicke’s region?
Materials & Procedures
Targeted words, morphological and syntactic structures were elicited by sentence completion with supporting linguistic and visual context. Targets were never modelled during the procedure. For verbs, visual and auditory contexts emphasise completed actions, targeting past tense forms. Lesion description was based on structural MRI scans.
Outcomes & Results
The three participants showed partially spared ability to produce nouns, adjectives, and verb stems in context. The elicitation method proved more productive in some cases than picture prompts or sentence prompts. Past tense inflections were usually omitted. Hence stems and inflections were dissociable. Two participants showed partial success with the passive, and no participant produced a full relative clause, including the relative pronoun, but two produced reduced forms of subject relatives. Partial sparing of production capability in these cases points to the likely importance of portions of the left hemisphere remote from Broca and Wernicke regions.
This application of elicited production methodology demonstrates possibilities of lexical, morphological, and syntactic production not evident in spontaneous utterances or by conventional aphasia tests. Some lexical and grammatical capabilities survived massive damage to both anterior and posterior portions of the left hemisphere.
Aphasia; Grammatical production; Recovery of production
Classical aphasiology, based on the study of stroke sequelae, fuses speech fluency and grammatical ability. Nonfluent (Broca's) aphasia often is accompanied by agrammatism; whereas in the fluent aphasias grammatical deficits are not typical. The assumption that a similar relationship exists in primary progressive aphasia (PPA) has led to the dichotomization of this syndrome into fluent and nonfluent subtypes.
This study compared elements of fluency and grammatical production in the narrative speech of individuals with PPA to determine if they can be dissociated from one another.
Speech samples from 37 individuals with PPA, clinically assigned to agrammatic (N=11), logopenic (N=20) and semantic (N=6) subtypes, and 13 cognitively healthy control participants telling the “Cinderella Story” were analyzed for fluency (i.e., words per minute (WPM) and mean length of utterance in words (MLU-W)) and grammaticality (i.e., the proportion of grammatically correct sentences, open-to-closed-class word ratio, noun-to-verb ratio, and correct production of verb inflection, noun morphology, and verb argument structure.) Between group differences were analyzed for each variable. Correlational analyses examined the relation between WPM and each grammatical variable, and an off-line measure of sentence production.
Outcomes And Results
Agrammatic and logopenic groups both had lower scores on the fluency measures and produced significantly fewer grammatical sentences than did semantic and control groups. However, only the agrammatic group evinced significantly impaired production of verb inflection and verb argument structure. In addition, some semantic participants showed abnormal open-to-closed and noun-to-verb ratios in narrative speech. When the sample was divided on the basis of fluency, all the agrammatic participants fell in the nonfluent category. The logopenic participants varied in fluency but those with low fluency showed variable performance on measures of grammaticality. Correlational analyses and scatter plots comparing fluency and each grammatical variable revealed dissociations within PPA participants, with some nonfluent participants showing normal grammatical skill.
Grammatical production is a complex construct comprised of correct usage of several language components, each of which can be selectively affected by disease. This study demonstrates that individuals with PPA show dissociations between fluency and grammatical production in narrative speech. Grammatical ability, and its relationship to fluency, varies from individual to individual, and from one variant of PPA to another, and can even be found in individuals with semantic PPA in whom a fluent aphasia is usually thought to accompany preserved ability to produce grammatical utterances.
Mental practice (MP) is a mind-body technique in which physical movements are cognitively rehearsed. It has shown efficacy in reducing the severity of a number of neurological impairments.
In the present review, we highlight recent developments in MP research, and the basis for MP use after stroke-induced motor speech disorders.
In this review, we: (a) propose a novel conceptual model regarding the development of learned nonuse in people with motor speech impairments; (b) review the rationale and efficacy of MP for reducing the severity of stroke-induced impairments; (c) review evidence demonstrating muscular and neural activations during and following MP use; (d) review evidence showing that MP increases skill acquisition, use, and function in stroke; (e) review literature regarding neuroplasticity after stroke, including MP-induced neuroplasticity and the neural substrates underlying motor and language reacquisition; and (f) based on the above, review the rationale and clinical application of MP for stroke-induced motor speech impairments.
Support for MP use includes decades of MP neurobiological and behavioral efficacy data in a number of populations. Most recently, these data have expanded to the application of MP in neurological populations. Given increasingly demanding managed care environments, efficacious strategies that can be easily administered are needed. We also encounter clinicians who aspire to use MP, but their protocols do not contain several of the elements shown to be fundamental to effective MP implementation. Given shortfalls of some conventional aphasia and motor speech rehabilitative techniques, and uncertainty regarding optimal MP implementation, this paper introduces the neurophysiologic bases for MP, the evidence for MP use in stroke rehabilitation, and discusses its applications and considerations in patients with stroke-induced motor speech impairments.
Discourse is a naturally occurring, dynamic form of communication. Coherence is one aspect of discourse and is a reflection of the listener's ability to interpret the overall meaning conveyed by the speaker. Adults with aphasia may present with impaired maintenance of global coherence, which, in turn, may contribute to their difficulties in overall communicative competence.
The aim of the study was to determine if microlinguistic processes contribute to maintenance of global coherence in adults with and without aphasia.
Method and Procedures
Participants included 15 adults with aphasia (PWA) and 15 healthy controls (HC). Study participants told stories conveyed in wordless picture books. The discourse samples were transcribed and then analyzed for percent of information units produced, lexical diversity, syntactic complexity, and maintenance of global coherence.
Outcomes and Results
Several linear regression models were carried out to investigate the relationship among the microlinguistic and macrolinguistic measures. For the control group, percent of information units conveyed was a significant predictor of maintenance of global coherence for stories told. For the aphasia group, percent of information units conveyed and lexical diversity were significant predictors of maintenance of global coherence for stories told.
Results indicated that microlinguistic processes contribute to the maintenance of global coherence in stories told by adults with aphasia. These findings have important clinical implications for using a multi-level discourse model for analyzing discourse ability in adults with aphasia and measuring individual response to treatment.
Verbal play, the creative and playful use of language to make puns, rhyme words, and tease, is a pervasive and enjoyable component of social communication and serves important interpersonal functions. The current study examines the use of verbal play in the communicative interactions of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease as part of a broader program of research on language-and-memory-in-use.
To document the frequency of verbal play in the communicative interactions of individuals with very mild Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and their familiar communication partners. To characterize the interactional forms, resources, and functions of playful episodes.
Using quantitative group comparisons and detailed discourse analysis, we analyzed verbal play in the interactional discourse of five participants with very mild AD and five healthy (demographically matched) comparison participants. Each participant interacted with a familiar partner while completing a collaborative referencing task, and with a researcher between task trials.
A total of 1,098 verbal play episodes were coded. Despite being in the early stages of AD, all the AD participants used verbal play. There were no significant group differences in the frequency of verbal play episodes or in the interactional forms, resources, or functions of those playful episodes between AD and healthy comparison pair sessions.
The successful use of verbal play in the interactions of individuals with very mild AD and their partners highlights an area of preserved social communication. These findings represent an important step, both clinically and for research, in documenting the rich ways that individuals with early stage AD orchestrate interactionally meaningful communication with their partners through the use of interactional discourse resources like verbal play. This work also offers a promising clinical tool for tracking and targeting verbal play across disease progression.
Discourse cohesion and coherence gives our communication continuity. Deficits in cohesion and coherence have been reported in patients with cognitive-communication disorders (e.g., TBI, dementia). However, the diffuse nature of pathology and widespread cognitive deficits of these disorders have made identification of specific neural substrates and cognitive systems critical for cohesion and coherence challenging.
Taking advantage of a rare patient group with selective and severe declarative memory impairments, the current study attempts to isolate the contribution of declarative memory to the successful use of cohesion and coherence in discourse.
Methods & Procedures
Cohesion and coherence were examined in the discourse of six participants with hippocampal amnesia and six demographically matched comparison participants. Specifically, this study (1) documents the frequency, type, and completeness of cohesive ties; (2) evaluates discourse for local and global coherence; and (3) compares use of cohesive ties and coherence ratings in amnesia and healthy participants.
Outcomes & Results
Overall, amnesia participants produced fewer cohesive ties per T-unit, the adequacy of their ties were more often judged to be incomplete, and the ratings of their local coherence were consistently lower than comparison participants.
These findings suggest that declarative memory may contribute to the discursive use of cohesion and coherence. Broader notions of cohesion, or interactional cohesion, i.e., cohesion across speakers (two or more people), time (days, weeks), and communicative resources (gesture), warrant further study as the experimental tasks used in the literature, and here, may actually underestimate or overestimate the extent of impairment.
Cohesion; Coherence; Declarative memory; Hippocampus; Discourse
Differences in lexical diversity (LD) across different discourse elicitation tasks have been found in neurologically intact adults (NIA) (Fergadiotis, Wright, & Capilouto, 2010) but have not been investigated systematically in people with aphasia (PWA). Measuring lexical diversity in PWA may serve as a useful clinical tool for evaluating the impact of word retrieval difficulties at the discourse level.
The study aims were (a) to explore the differences between the oral language samples of PWA and NIA in terms of LD as measured by dedicated computer software (voc-D), (b) to determine whether PWA are sensitive to discourse elicitation task in terms of LD, and (c) to identify whether differences between PWA and NIA vary in magnitude as a function of discourse task.
Method & Procedures
Oral language samples from 25 PWA and 27 NIA were analysed. Participants completed three commonly used discourse elicitation tasks (single pictures, sequential pictures, story telling) and voc-D was used to obtain estimates of their LD.
Outcomes & Results
A mixed 2 × 3 ANOVA revealed a significant group task interaction that was followed by an investigation of simple main effects and tetrad×comparisons. Different patterns of LD were uncovered for each group. For the NIA group results were consistent with previous findings in the literature according to which LD varies as a function of elicitation technique. However, for PWA sequential pictures and story telling elicited comparable estimates of LD.
Results indicated that LD is one of the microlinguistic indices that are influenced by elicitation task and the presence of aphasia. These findings have important implications for modelling lexical diversity and selecting and interpreting results from different discourse elicitation tasks.
Discourse; Productive vocabulary; Computational linguistics
AphasiaBank is a computerized database of interviews between persons with aphasia (PWAs) and clinicians. By February 2011, the database had grown to include 145 PWAs and 126 controls from 12 sites across the United States. The data and related analysis programs are available free over the web.
The overall goal of AphasiaBank is the construction of a system for accumulating and sharing data on language usage by PWAs. To achieve this goal, we have developed a standard elicitation protocol and systematic automatic and manual methods for transcription, coding, and analysis.
Methods & Procedures
We present sample analyses of transcripts from the retelling of the Cinderella story. These analyses illustrate the application of our methods for the study of phonological, lexical, semantic, morphological, syntactic, temporal, prosodic, gestural, and discourse features.
AphasiaBank will allow researchers access to a large, shared database that can facilitate hypothesis testing and increase methodological replicability, precision, and transparency.
AphasiaBank will provide researchers with an important new tool in the study of aphasia.
The goals of the study were (a) to examine the effect of discourse type on lexical diversity by testing whether there are significant differences among language samples elicited using four discourse tasks (procedures, eventcasts, story telling, and recounts); and (b) to assess the extent to which age influences lexical diversity when different types of discourse are elicited.
Methods & Procedures
A total of 86 cognitively healthy adults participated in the study and comprised two groups – young adults (20–29 years old) and older adults (70–89 years old). Participants completed the discourse tasks and their language samples were analysed using dedicated software (voc-D) to obtain estimates of their lexical diversity.
Outcomes & Results
A mixed 2 × 4 ANOVA was conducted and followed by an investigation of simple main effects. A lexical diversity hierarchy was established that was similar for both age groups. The study also uncovered age-related differences that were evident when the stimuli were verbally presented but were eliminated when the language samples were elicited using pictorial stimuli.
Results indicated that lexical diversity is one of the microlinguistic indices that are influenced by discourse type and age, a finding that carries important methodological implications. Future investigations are warranted to explore the patterns of lexical diversity in individuals with neurogenic language disorders and assess the clinical utility of measures of lexical diversity.
Lexical diversity; Ageing; Linguistics; Diversity
This investigation sought to determine whether a structured intervention focused on improving use of semantic associations could improve patients’ ability to provide oral interpretations of metaphors following Right Hemisphere Damage (RHD).
Principles of single subject experimental design provided the basis for the study. Five patients received either 10 or 20 baseline assessments of oral metaphor interpretation and, as a control, assessments of line orientation skill. They then received approximately 10 one-hour sessions of structured intervention to improve oral metaphor interpretation followed by post-training assessments and a 3 month follow up.
Patients’ performances revealed evidence of good response to training as shown by patients' ability to reach criterion on all intervention tasks and by their significant improvement on oral metaphor interpretation. There was relatively little improvement on the line orientation task.
The results of this study support the clinical usefulness of this new approach to treating communication deficits associated with RHD due to stroke, even years post-onset. There are, however, questions that remain unanswered. For example, additional data will be needed to gauge how a patient’s severity of impairment relates to the potential for improvement, to chart the durability and scope of improvement associated with the training, and to determine the type of visuospatial ability needed for using this type of pictorial material.
Verbal short-term memory (STM) impairments are invariably present in aphasia. Word processing involves a minimal form of verbal STM, i.e., the time course over which semantic and phonological representations are activated and maintained until they are comprehended, produced, or repeated. Thus it is reasonable that impairments of word processing and verbal STM may co-occur. The co-occurrence of language and STM impairments in aphasia has motivated an active area of research that has revealed much about the relationship of these two systems and the effect of their impairment on language function and verbal learning (Freedman & Martin, 2001; Martin & Saffran, 1999; Trojano & Grossi, 1995). In keeping with this view a number of researchers have developed treatment protocols to improve verbal STM in order to improve language function (e.g., Koenig-Bruhin & Studer-Eichenberger, 2007). This account of aphasia predicts that treatment of a fundamental ability, such as STM, which supports language function, should lead to improvements that generalise to content and tasks beyond those implemented in treatment.
We investigated the efficacy of a treatment for language impairment that targets two language support processes: verbal short-term memory (STM) and executive processing, in the context of a language task (repetition). We hypothesised that treatment of these abilities would improve repetition abilities and performance on other language tasks that require STM.
A single-participant, multiple-baseline, multiple-probe design across behaviours was used with a participant with conduction aphasia. The treatment involved repetition of words and nonwords under three “interval” conditions, which varied the time between hearing and repeating the stimulus. Measures of treatment effects included acquisition, maintenance, and follow-up data, effect sizes, and pre- and post-treatment performance on a test battery that varies the STM and executive function demands of language tasks.
Outcomes & Results
Improvement of repetition was mostly specific to treated stimuli. Post-treatment measures of language ability indicated improvements in single and multiple word processing tasks, verbal working memory tasks, and verbal span.
Treatment of STM and executive processes in the context of a word repetition task resulted in improvements in other non-treated language tasks. The approach used in this study can be incorporated into other language-processing tasks typically used in treatment of language disorders (e.g., sentence processing).
Verbal short-term memory; Language processing; Treatment; Aphasia
Recent research suggests that the complexity of treatment stimuli influences the effectiveness of treatment. However, no studies have examined the role of complexity on sound production treatment in adult individuals with sound production impairments.
This study examines effects of syllable complexity on treatment outcome in two patients with acquired sound production problems. Complexity is defined in terms of syllable structure: clusters are more complex than singletons. Using a single-subject multiple-baseline design, we address the question: Is treatment of complex syllables more effective than treatment of simple syllables?
Methods & Procedures
Two patients with aphasia and apraxia of speech were trained to produce complex or simple syllables (using modelling). Improvement was measured by percent correct on a word and nonword repetition test.
Outcomes & Results
We found that both treatment on simple syllables and treatment on complex syllables led to improved production of simple syllables, while treatment of complex syllables also led to improvement on some complex syllables for one of the two patients.
These results suggests that training complex items is more effective than training simple items, at least for some patients. Possible reasons for lack of stronger effects are discussed, as well as directions for future research.
Persons with aphasia often report feeling anxious when using language while communicating. While many patients, caregivers, clinicians and researchers would agree that language may be a stressor for persons with aphasia, systematic empirical studies of stress and/or anxiety in aphasia remain scarce.
The aim of this paper is to review the existing literature discussing language as a stressor in aphasia, identify key issues, highlight important gaps, and propose a program for future study. In doing so, we hope to underscore the importance of understanding aspects of the emotional aftermath of aphasia, which plays a critical role in the process of recovery and rehabilitation.
Post stroke emotional dysregulation in persons with chronic aphasia clearly has adverse effects for language performance and prospects of recovery. However, the specific role anxiety might play in aphasia has yet to be determined. As a starting point, we propose to view language in aphasia as a stressor, linked to an emotional state we term “linguistic anxiety.” Specifically, a person with linguistic anxiety is one in whom the deliberate, effortful production of language involves anticipation of an error, with the imminence of linguistic failure serving as the threat. Since anticipation is psychologically linked to anxiety and also plays an important role in the allostatic system, we suggest that examining physiologic stress responses in persons with aphasia when they are asked to perform a linguistic task would be a productive tool for assessing the potential relation of stress to “linguistic anxiety.”
Exploring the putative relationship between anxiety and language in aphasia, through the study of physiologic stress responses, could establish a platform for investigating language changes in the brain in other clinical populations, such as in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or persons with post traumatic stress disorder, or even with healthy aging persons, in whom “linguistic anxiety” might be at work when they have trouble finding words.
Individuals with non-fluent aphasia have difficulty producing syntactically laden words, such as function words, whereas individuals with fluent aphasia often have difficulty producing semantically specific words. It is hypothesised that such dissociations arise, at least in part, from a trade-off between syntactic and semantic sources of input to lexical retrieval.
The aims of this study were (a) to identify quantitative measures of the semantic content of narrative for people with aphasia that are reliable indicators of semantic competence, independent of overall aphasia severity; (b) to determine whether these measures distinguish between fluent and non-fluent aphasia; and (c) to assess whether individuals with fluent and non-fluent aphasia show a trade-off between measures of syntactic and semantic production.
Methods & Procedures
Connected speech samples were elicited from 16 participants with aphasia, 8 fluent and 8 non-fluent. The semantic sufficiency of the samples was analysed by measuring the proportion of correct information units (CIUs), the type–token ratios (TTRs) of content words, and the proportion of semantically specific (“heavy”) to semantically general (“light”) verbs produced. These measures were then correlated with syntactic measures from the QPA (Berndt, Wayland, Rochon, Saffran, & Schwartz, 2000) across and within participant groups.
Outcomes & Results
CIUs were found to reflect primarily aphasia severity, and not to differentiate between fluent and non-fluent groups. TTRs were also strongly influenced by severity among fluent, but not non-fluent, participants. The ratio of heavy to light verbs reliably distinguished the groups, and showed different patterns of correlation with the syntactic measures.
Results show some evidence for a trade-off between syntactic and semantic inputs to word retrieval, at least among non-fluent participants. The heavy–light verb ratio provides information about semantic specificity, beyond what is provided by the CIU or TTR measures.
Aphasia; Narrative; Semantics; Agrammatism; Anomia
Language fluency is a common diagnostic marker for discriminating among aphasia subtypes and improving clinical inference about site of lesion. Nevertheless, fluency remains a subjective construct that is vulnerable to a number of potential sources of variability, both between and within raters. Moreover, this variability is compounded by distinct neurological aetiologies that shape the characteristics of a narrative speech sample. Previous research on fluency has focused on characteristics of a particular patient population. Less is known about the ways that raters spontaneously weigh different perceptual cues when listening to narrative speech samples derived from a heterogeneous sample of brain-damaged adults.
We examined the weighted contribution of a series of perceptual predictors that influence listeners’ judgements of language fluency among a diverse sample of speakers. Our goal was to sample a range of narrative speech representing most fluent (i.e., healthy controls) to potentially least nonfluent (i.e., left inferior frontal lobe stroke).
Methods & Procedures
Three raters blind to patient diagnosis made forced choice judgements of fluency (i.e., fluent or nonfluent) for 61 pseudorandomly presented narrative speech samples elicited by the BDAE Cookie Theft picture. Samples were collected from a range of clinical populations, including patients with frontal and temporal lobe pathologies and non-brain-damaged speakers. We conducted a logistic regression analysis in which the dependent measure was the majority judgement of fluency for each speech sample (i.e., fluent or non-fluent). The statistical model contained five predictors: speech rate, syllable type token ratio, speech productivity, audible struggle, and filler ratio.
Outcomes & Results
This statistical model fit the data well, discriminating group membership (i.e., fluent or nonfluent) with 95.1% accuracy. The best step of the regression model included the following predictors: speech rate, speech productivity, and audible struggle. Listeners were sensitive to different weightings of these predictors.
A small combination of perceptual variables can strongly discriminate whether a listener will assign a judgement of fluent versus nonfluent. We discuss implications for these findings and identify areas of potential future research towards further specifying the construct of fluency among adults with acquired speech and language disorders.
Fluency; Perception; Listener judgement; Nonfluent aphasia
This manuscript reports the initial phase of testing for a novel, “Contextual constraint” treatment, designed to stimulate inefficient language comprehension processes in adults with right hemisphere brain damage (RHD). Two versions of treatment were developed to target two normal comprehension processes that have broad relevance for discourse comprehension and that are often disrupted by RHD: coarse semantic coding and suppression. The development of the treatment was informed by two well-documented strengths of the RHD population. The first is consistently better performance on assessments that are implicit, or nearly so, than on explicit, metalinguistic measures of language and cognitive processing. The second is improved performance when given linguistic context that moderately-to-strongly biases an intended meaning. Treatment consisted of providing brief context sentences to prestimulate, or constrain, intended interpretations. Participants made no explicit associations or judgments about the constraint sentences; rather, these contexts served only as implicit primes.
This Phase I treatment study aimed to determine the effects of a novel, implicit, Contextual Constraint treatment in adults with RHD whose coarse coding or suppression processes were inefficient. Treatment was hypothesized to speed coarse coding or suppression function in these individuals.
Methods & Procedures
Three adults with RHD participated in this study, one (P1) with a coarse coding deficit and two (P2, P3) with suppression deficits. Probe tasks were adapted from prior studies of coarse coding and suppression in RHD. The dependent measure was the percentage of responses that met predetermined response time criteria. When pre-treatment baseline performance was stable, treatment was initiated. There were two levels of contextual constraint, Strong and Moderate, and treatment for each item began with the provision of the Strong constraint context.
Outcomes & Results
Treatment-contingent gains were evident after brief periods of treatment, for P1 on two treatment lists, and for P2. P3 made slower but still substantial gains. Maintenance of gains was evident for P1, the only participant for whom it was measured.
This Phase I treatment study documents the potential for considerable gains from an implicit, Contextual constraint treatment. If replicated, this approach to treatment may hold promise for individuals who do poorly with effortful, metalinguistic treatment tasks, or for whom it is desirable to minimize errors during treatment. The real test of this treatment’s benefit will come from later phase studies of study, which will test broad-based generalization to various aspects of discourse comprehension.
Right brain damage; Discourse comprehension; language treatment; Suppression; Coarse coding