Daily Archives: January 14, 2008

An ERP investigation on the temporal dynamics of emotional prosody and emotional semantics in pseudo- and lexical-sentence context

from Brain and Language

Previous evidence supports differential event-related brain potential (ERP) responses for emotional prosodic processing and integrative emotional prosodic/semantic processing. While latter process elicits a negativity similar to the well-known N400 component, transitions in emotional prosodic processing elicit a positivity. To further substantiate this evidence, the current investigation utilized lexical-sentences and sentences without lexical content (pseudo-sentences) spoken in six basic emotions by a female and a male speaker. Results indicate that emotional prosodic expectancy violations elicit a right-lateralized positive-going ERP component independent of basic emotional prosodies and speaker voice. In addition, expectancy violations of integrative emotional prosody/semantics elicit a negativity with a whole-head distribution. The current results nicely complement previous evidence, and extend the results by showing the respective effects for a wider range of emotional prosodies independent of lexical content and speaker voice.

Coarse coding and discourse comprehension in adults with right hemisphere brain damage

from Aphasiology

Background: Various investigators suggest that some discourse-level comprehension difficulties in adults with right hemisphere brain damage (RHD) have a lexical-semantic basis. As words are processed, the intact right hemisphere arouses and sustains activation of a wide-ranging network of secondary or peripheral meanings and features – a phenomenon dubbed “coarse coding”. Coarse coding impairment has been postulated to underpin some prototypical RHD comprehension deficits, such as difficulties with nonliteral language interpretation, discourse integration, some kinds of inference generation, and recovery when a reinterpretation is needed. To date, however, no studies have addressed the hypothesised link between coarse coding deficit and discourse comprehension in RHD.

Aims: The current investigation examined whether coarse coding was related to performance on two measures of narrative comprehension in adults with RHD.

Methods & Procedures: Participants were 32 adults with unilateral RHD from cerebrovascular accident, and 38 adults without brain damage. Coarse coding was operationalised as poor activation of peripheral/weakly related semantic features of words. For the coarse coding assessment, participants listened to spoken sentences that ended in a concrete noun. Each sentence was followed by a spoken target phoneme string. Targets were subordinate semantic features of the sentence-final nouns that were incompatible with their dominant mental representations (e.g., “rotten” for apple). Targets were presented at two post-noun intervals. A lexical decision task was used to gauge both early activation and maintenance of activation of these weakly related semantic features. One of the narrative tasks assessed comprehension of implied main ideas and details, while the other indexed high-level inferencing and integration. Both comprehension tasks were presented auditorily. For all tasks, accuracy of performance was the dependent measure. Correlations were computed within the RHD group between both the early and late coarse coding measures and the two discourse measures. Additionally, ANCOVA and independent t-tests were used to compare both early and sustained coarse coding in subgroups of good and poor RHD comprehenders.

Outcomes & Results: The group with RHD was less accurate than the control group on all measures. The finding of coarse coding impairment (difficulty activating/sustaining activation of a word’s peripheral features) may appear to contradict prior evidence of RHD suppression deficit (prolonged activation for context-inappropriate meanings of words). However, the sentence contexts in this study were unbiased and thus did not provide an appropriate test of suppression function. Correlations between coarse coding and the discourse measures were small and nonsignificant. There were no differences in coarse coding between RHD comprehension subgroups on the high-level inferencing task. There was also no distinction in early coarse coding for subgroups based on comprehension of implied main ideas and details. But for these same subgroups, there was a difference in sustained coarse coding. Poorer RHD comprehenders of implied information from discourse were also poorer at maintaining activation for semantically distant features of concrete nouns.

Conclusions: This study provides evidence of a variant of the postulated link between coarse coding and discourse comprehension in RHD. Specifically, adults with RHD who were particularly poor at sustaining activation for peripheral semantic features of nouns were also relatively poor comprehenders of implied information from narratives.

Do picture-naming tests provide a valid assessment of lexical retrieval in conversation in aphasia?

from Aphasiology

Background: Word-finding problems commonly occur in aphasia and can significantly affect communication. Assessment of this deficit typically involves naming pictures. However, this method has been criticised as lacking ecological validity. Alternative methods include the measurement of lexical retrieval in narration or conversation, although few published studies have quantified word finding in the latter.

Aims: We aimed to identify a reliable and valid assessment of lexical retrieval in conversation, and to elucidate the nature of the relationship between lexical retrieval in picture naming and in conversation.

Methods and Procedures: We developed a quantitative measure of word finding in conversation in aphasia and established the reliability and stability of the method. We compared the scores of a group of people with aphasia on this measure with their scores on a picture-naming test.

Outcomes and Results: We found significant relationships between picture-naming scores and a number of key variables analysed in the conversation measure. We propose that scores on picture naming relate to the ability to retrieve nouns in everyday conversation for the people with aphasia who took part in this study.

Conclusions: The use of picture-naming tasks is justified, providing a valid and rich means of assessment of lexical retrieval. Further research is required to replicate these results with more people with aphasia. We offer the quantitative assessment of conversation developed here for use in research and clinical spheres.

Prenatal Drug Exposure: Effects on Cognitive Functioning at 5 Years of Age

from Clinical Pediatrics

The goal of this cross-sectional study was to compare cognitive functioning at age 5 years in prenatal drug-exposed children with nondrug-exposed children from a comparable inner-city environment. Children with prenatal drug exposure scored significantly lower on measures of language, school readiness skills, impulse control, and visual attention span/sequencing than controls matched for age and socioeconomic status. Intelligence, visual-motor, manual dexterity, and sustained attention scores were not significantly different between groups. The total sample scored significantly below the normative mean on standardized measures of intelligence, language, school readiness, visual-motor skills, impulse control, and sustained attention, with 40% scoring at least 1 standard deviation below the mean (IQ < 85) on a measure of intelligence. Findings suggest that children with prenatal drug exposure are at increased risk for learning and attention problems and are in need of close developmental surveillance and possible intervention to support school success and improve behavioral outcome.

NAD Files Complaints Against Palmetto General Hospital And The City Of Hialeah, Florida

from News-Medical.net

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and the Law Offices of Matthew W. Dietz, P.L., filed two complaints in the United States District Court in Miami, Florida, against the City of Hialeah, Florida, and Palmetto General Hospital alleging their failure to provide qualified sign language interpreter services to ensure effective communication with Cynthia Cuevas and Erik Phillips, a deaf couple.

NAD Settles Complaint Against Service Provider

from News-Medical.net

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) has settled a complaint, filed with the United States Department of Justice, against a company that provides behavioral counseling and psychological services for children with autism spectrum disorders, challenging behavior and related developmental disabilities. The complaint alleged that the company refused to provide services for a hearing child because his parents are deaf, a violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Collaborative working between speech and language therapists and teachers of the deaf

from Intute.ac.uk

This paper updates a position statement originally published in 1997, to reflect changes in practice in the intervening years. It is produced by the British Association of Teachers of the Deaf and Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. It is aimed at teachers of the deaf and their assistants, speech and language therapists, community support workers and others involved in the care of the deaf. The paper provides examples of successful practice in areas such as communication, sharing information and joint training.

Biotech as `biothreat’?: metaphorical constructions in discourse

from Discourse and Society

In Denmark, as in many other European countries, biotechnology continues to be a much debated and controversial issue. The article takes its starting point in this debate, investigating how metaphorical constructions in media discourse reproduce and promote the viewpoints of particular societal groups. In this, the article tries to make up for the limited focus upon the role played by metaphor and discourse in shaping public attitudes to biotechnology. The article has two parts: a theoretical part discussing the combination of conceptual metaphor studies and critical discourse analysis to provide a more comprehensive frame for explaining the function of metaphor in use; and an empirical part analysing biotech-metaphors in the Danish print press. Although not conclusive, the analysis points to metaphorical constructions in the press being both grounded in basic image schematic structures and highly influenced by attitudes expressed by societal groups, based on the notions of risk, fear and danger.

Daily political communication and argumentation in direct democracy: advocates and opponents of nuclear energy

from Discourse and Society

In a direct democracy, the public and media debate by referendums and popular votes presupposes a particular type of political communication and argumentation. The example chosen is the debate between the advocates and opponents of nuclear energy, a very conflictual debate based on daily argumentation which cannot be defined as simply irrational. There are specific logics involved. The struggle for social and political representation and the `game of placement—displacement’ are fundamental. Specific discourse strategies permit the definition of a larger conception of argumentation and a multidimensional approach to communication and discourse, as well as shade typologies of effective discourses.

Dealing with the inevitable: strategies of self-presentation and meaning construction in the final statements of inmates on Texas death row

from Discourse and Society

Last statements of death row inmates represent a genre of discourse characterized by an acute situation in which to express final reflections. This article describes how Texas death row inmates give meaning to their situation by examining their last statements. Between December 1982 and November 2006, 379 offenders were executed on the Texas death row. Through the inspection of 283 last statements made available on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website, we identify strategies of self-presentation. In a first stage, we build a textual framework that uncovers a sequential structuring of what these individuals chose to express. Using this framework, the second stage analyzes the individual texts on a micro-level. Depending on the content of the statements, e.g. accepting or denying guilt, we identify key patterns of how inmates attach meaning to their situation and what they choose to express.

Functional Anatomic Models of Language: Assembling the Pieces

from the Neuroscientist

In the past few years, a series of influential review articles have summarized the state of the art with respect to cortical models of language organization. The present article is a mini-review and conceptual meta-analysis of several of the most prominent recent contributions. Based on the models, the authors extract some generalizations to arrive at a more robust model that 1) does justice to the range of neurological data, 2) is more connected to research in linguistics and psycholinguistics, and 3) stimulates hypothesis-driven research in this domain. In particular, the article attempts to unify a few of the current large-scale models of the functional neuroanatomy of language in a more principled manner. First, the authors argue that the relevant type of processing in a given cortical area, that is, memorizing (temporal cortex) versus analyzing (parietal) versus synthesizing (frontal), lies at the basis of local neuronal structure and function. Second, from an anatomic perspective, more dorsal regions within each of these (temporal, parietal, and frontal) systems specialize more in phonological processing, middle areas in syntactic processing, and more ventral areas in semantic processing. NEUROSCIENTIST 14(1):119—127, 2008.

Social cognition and discourse processing goals in the analysis of `ex-gay’ rhetoric

from Discourse and Society

This article reports a critical discourse analysis of a series of newspaper advertisements advocating `ex-gay’ ministries and `reparative therapy’ for homosexuality — interventions designed to `treat’ homosexuality through prayer or psychoanalysis. These ads, part of an effort to make `ex-gay’ discourse more central to the public communication strategies of conservative, anti-gay political groups, feature both narrative and statistical arguments that gay men and lesbians can be converted to heterosexuality. This study draws on quantitative social psychological research on antigay attitudes and Slater’s extension of the elaboration likelihood model of persuasion to establish the cognitive context for this discourse and to link the argumentative features of the advertisements to potential persuasive effects on different audiences. The analysis shows how different rhetorical strategies employed in these ads might differentially influence readers who are either `value protective’ or `value affirmative’ in their processing goals.

An ERP investigation on the temporal dynamics of emotional prosody and emotional semantics in pseudo- and lexical-sentence context

from Brain and Language

Previous evidence supports differential event-related brain potential (ERP) responses for emotional prosodic processing and integrative emotional prosodic/semantic processing. While latter process elicits a negativity similar to the well-known N400 component, transitions in emotional prosodic processing elicit a positivity. To further substantiate this evidence, the current investigation utilized lexical-sentences and sentences without lexical content (pseudo-sentences) spoken in six basic emotions by a female and a male speaker. Results indicate that emotional prosodic expectancy violations elicit a right-lateralized positive-going ERP component independent of basic emotional prosodies and speaker voice. In addition, expectancy violations of integrative emotional prosody/semantics elicit a negativity with a whole-head distribution. The current results nicely complement previous evidence, and extend the results by showing the respective effects for a wider range of emotional prosodies independent of lexical content and speaker voice.

The Square Flap Method for Cleft Palate Repair

from the Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Journal

Objective: To introduce a new surgical technique for repair of cleft palate using the square flap method.

Design and Setting: A retrospective analysis of prospectively collected data.

Patients and Methods: The procedure was performed from 1995 to 2004 in 21 males and 16 females with cleft palates of different types; the patients had a median age of 6.0 years and an average age of 9.4 years (range from 22 months to 23 years). In these patients, the square flap method, consisting of one rhombic flap and four triangular flaps, designed on the soft palate across the defect, was applied to the von Langenbeck procedure. After incisions, the flaps were rotated and advanced, and each flap was inserted into the opposite side and then sutured. The patients were followed from 6 months to 2 years, the velopharyngeal closure was examined by nasopharyngeal fiberscope and/ or x-ray radiography, and a clinical speech evaluation was performed.

Results: In all cases, no problem of flap viability was encountered and all healed well. The postoperative results were satisfactory without any complications such as dehiscence, perforation, palatal fistula, or functional disturbance. The velopharyngeal closure and clinical speech evaluation were satisfactory, and the effects of the operation were stable.

Conclusions: The technique presented has been effective, with the advantages of palatal closure without tension, good muscular reconstruction, and sufficient lengthening of the soft palate.

Auditory neurons in humans far more sensitive to fine sound frequencies than most mammals

from EurekAlert.org

Researchers implant electrodes in the brain, and use the soundtrack from ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’