Monthly Archives: February 2010

The effects of aging on evoked otoacoustic emissions and efferent suppression of transient evoked otoacoustic emissions

The deterioration of EOAEs and ES with advancing age is caused mainly by pure age-effects, and additionally by the reduction in hearing thresholds.

from Clinical Neurophysiology

Girl friendly? Investigating the gender gap in national reading tests at age 11

Conclusions: This investigation suggests that there are differences between boys and girls in their preferences for different genres and in their test-taking strategies.

from Educational Research

The role of attribution beliefs, motivation and strategy use in Chinese fifth-graders’ reading comprehension

Conclusions: These findings suggest that the Chinese children who considered intelligence and ability as controllable were more likely to be intrinsically motivated to learn to read and to use various reading strategies to tackle problems when constructing meaning from text, resulting in a better understanding of text. However, as all the participants in the present study came from one Hong Kong primary school, caution should be exercised in generalising the findings of the present study to all Chinese primary students.

from Educational Research

Spontaneous language production in bilingual Parkinson’s disease patients: Evidence of greater phonological, morphological and syntactic impairments in native language

Nine early non-demented bilingual (L1 – Friulian, L2 – Italian) patients with Parkinson’s disease and nine normal controls matched for age, sex and years of education were studied on a spontaneous language production task. All subjects had acquired L1 from birth in a home environment and L2 at the age of six at school formally. Patients with PD evidenced more phonological, morphological and syntactic errors in L1 than in L2. The opposite pattern was observed in normal controls as far as grammar was concerned. These findings suggest that implicit language processing is more impaired than explicit language processing in Parkinson’s disease.

from Brain and Language

Theory of Mind in adults with right hemisphere damage: What’s the story?

Why do people with right hemisphere damage (RHD) have difficulty with pragmatics and communication? One hypothesis has been that pragmatic impairment in RHD is the result of an underlying impairment in Theory of Mind (ToM): the ability to infer the mental states of others. In previous studies evaluating ToM abilities in people with RHD, researchers have used judgment tasks based on story or still cartoon stimuli. However, ToM is likely to draw on kinetic information as well, and these tasks ignore this aspect. The aim of this study was to assess ToM abilities in people with RHD using participants’ evaluations of animated films with moving geometric shapes. Participants were presented with eight films of animated triangles. Four of the films represented the triangles as intentional agents with mental states, while the other four represented the triangles as simply inanimate, though moving, objects. Films were evaluated by both button-press response and by oral descriptions. Analysis of the transcriptions revealed that participants with RHD had a reduced ability to discriminate between the film categories, and a bias toward reduced mental-state ascription in the ToM condition.

from Brain and Language

Is there only one “fenêtre” in the production lexicon? On-line evidence on the nature of phonological representations of pronunciation variants for French schwa words

This study examines whether the production of words with two phonological variants involves single or multiple lexical phonological representations. Three production experiments investigated the roles of the relative frequencies of the two pronunciation variants of French words with schwa: the schwa variant (e.g., ) and the reduced variant (e.g., ). In two naming tasks and in a symbol–word association learning task, variants with higher relative frequencies were produced faster. This suggests that the production lexicon keeps a frequency count for each variant and hence that schwa words are represented in the production lexicon with two different lexemes. In addition, the advantage for schwa variants over reduced variants in the naming tasks but not in the learning task and the absence of a variant relative frequency effect for schwa variants produced in isolation support the hypothesis that context affects the variants’ lexical activation and modulates the effect of variant relative frequency.

from the Journal of Memory and Language

Syntactic priming in comprehension: Parallelism effects with and without coordination

Although previous research has shown a processing facilitation for conjoined phrases that share the same structure, it is currently not clear whether this parallelism advantage is specific to particular syntactic environments such as coordination, or whether it is an example of more general effect in sentence comprehension. Here, we report three eye-tracking experiments that test for parallelism effects both in coordinated noun phrases and in subordinate clauses. The first experiment replicated previous findings, showing that the second conjunct of a coordinated noun phrase was read more quickly when it had the same structure as the first conjunct, compared with when it did not. Experiment 2 examined parallelism effects in noun phrases that were not linked by coordination. Again, a reading time advantage was found when the second noun phrase had the same structure as the first. Experiment 3 compared parallelism effects in coordinated and non-coordinated syntactic environments. The parallelism effect was replicated for both environments, and was statistically equivalent whether or not coordination was involved. This demonstrated that parallelism effects can be found outside the environment of coordination, suggesting a general syntactic priming mechanism as the underlying explanation.

from the Journal of Memory and Language

A sub-process view of working memory capacity: Evidence from effects of speech on prose memory

In this article we outline a “sub-process view” of working memory capacity (WMC). This view suggests that any relationship between WMC and another construct (e.g., reading comprehension) is actually a relationship with a specific part of the WMC construct. The parts, called sub-processes, are functionally distinct and can be measured by intrusion errors in WMC tasks. Since the sub-processes are functionally distinct, some sub-process may be related to a certain phenomenon, whereas another sub-process is related to other phenomena. In two experiments we show that a sub-process (measured by immediate/current-list intrusions) is related to the effects of speech on prose memory (semantic auditory distraction), whereas another sub-process (measured by delayed/prior-list intrusions), known for its contribution to reading comprehension, is not. In Experiment 2 we developed a new WMC task called “size-comparison span” and found that the relationship between WMC and semantic auditory distraction is actually a relationship with a sub-process measured by current-list intrusions in our new task.

from Memory

Acoustic analyses of two recovered cases of foreign accent syndrome

Recently, a growing number of studies have been published involving phonetic and acoustic analyses on the rare motor-speech disorder known as Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS). These studies have relied on pre- and post-trauma speech samples to investigate the acoustic and phonetic properties of individual cases of FAS speech. This study presents detailed acoustic analyses of the speech characteristics of two new cases of FAS using identical pre- and post-recovery speech samples, thus affording a new level of control in the study of Foreign Accent Syndrome. Participants include a 48-year-old female who began speaking with an “Eastern European” accent following a traumatic brain injury, and a 45-year-old male who presented with a “British” accent following a subcortical cerebral vascular accident (CVA). The acoustic analysis was based on 18 real words comprised of the stop consonants /p/, /t/, /k/; /b/, /d/, /g/ combined with the peripheral vowels /i/, /a/ and /u/ and ending in a voiceless stop. Computer-based acoustic measures included: (1) voice onset time (VOT), (2) vowel durations, (3) whole word durations, (4) first, second and third formant frequencies, and (5) fundamental frequency. Formant frequencies were measured at three points in the vowel duration: (a) 20%, (b) 50%, and (c) 80% to assess differences in vowel ‘onglides’ and ‘offglides’. The acoustic analysis allowed precise quantification of the major phonetic features associated with the foreign quality of participants’ FAS speech. Results indicated post-recovery changes in both duration and frequency measures, including a tendency toward more normal VOT production of voiced stops, changes in average vowel durations, as well as evidence from formant frequency values of vowel backing for both participants. The implications of this study for future research and clinical applications are also considered.

from Aphasiology

Genetic Susceptibility to Stuttering

Disorders that disrupt the development of speech, language, or reading have substantial effects on social function. Researchers have implicated specific genetic variants in monogenic speech disorder,1 common language impairments,2,3 and dyslexia.4 With the report by Kang and colleagues in this issue of the Journal,5 stuttering joins the fray.

from New England Journal of Medicine

Mutations in the Lysosomal Enzyme–Targeting Pathway and Persistent Stuttering

Conclusions Susceptibility to nonsyndromic stuttering is associated with variations in genes governing lysosomal metabolism.

from New England Journal of Medicine

Is young children’s recognition of pretense metarepresentational or merely behavioral? Evidence from 2- and 3-year-olds’ understanding of pretend sounds and speech

When young children observe pretend-play, do they interpret it simply as a type of behavior, or do they infer the underlying mental state that gives the behavior meaning? This is a long-standing question with deep implications for how “theory on mind” develops. The two leading accounts of shared pretense give opposing answers. The behavioral theory proposes that children represent pretense as a form of behavior (behaving in a way that would be appropriate if P); the metarepresentational theory argues that children instead represent pretense via the early concept PRETEND. A test between these accounts is provided by children’s understanding of pretend sounds and speech. We report the first experiments directly investigating this understanding. In three experiments, 2- and 3-year-olds’ listened to requests that were either spoken normally, or with the pretense that a teddy bear was uttering them. To correctly fulfill the requests, children had to represent the normal utterance as the experimenter’s, and the pretend utterances as the bear’s. Children succeeded at both ages, suggesting that they can represent pretend speech (the requests) as coming from counterfactual sources (the bear rather than the experimenter). We argue that this is readily explained by the metarepresentational theory, but harder to explain if children are behaviorists about pretense.

from Cognition

Change and novelty detection in speech and non-speech sound streams

The aim of the present study was to determine differences in cortical processing of consonant-vowel syllables and acoustically matched non-speech sounds, as well as novel human and nonhuman sounds. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded to vowel, vowel duration, consonant, syllable intensity, and frequency changes as well as corresponding changes in their non-speech counterparts with the multi-feature mismatch negativity (MMN) paradigm. Enhanced responses to linguistically relevant deviants were expected. Indeed, the vowel and frequency deviants elicited significantly larger MMNs in the speech than non-speech condition. Minimum norm source localization algorithm was applied to determine hemispheric asymmetry in the responses. Language relevant deviants (vowel, duration and – to a lesser degree – frequency) showed higher activation in the left than right hemisphere to stimuli in the speech condition. Novel sounds elicited novelty P3 waves, the amplitude of which for nonhuman sounds was larger in the speech than non-speech condition. The current MMN results imply enhanced processing of linguistically relevant information at the pre-attentive stage and in this way support the domain-specific model of speech perception.

from Brain Research

A comparison of the consonant production between Dutch children using cochlear implants and children using hearing aids

The consonant production of implanted children is more adequate than the consonant production of HA children with a hearing loss of 70 dB or more. In addition, the results also indicate that even after the age of 5 years, implantation can still have an advantageous effect on a child’s consonant production.

from the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology

Emotion modulates language production during covert picture naming

Previous studies have shown that emotional content modulates the activity of several components of the event-related potentials during word comprehension. However, little is known about the impact of affective information on the different processing stages involved in word production. In the present study we aimed to investigate the influence of positive and negative emotions in phonological encoding, a process that have been shown to take place between 300 and 450 ms in previous studies. Participants performed letter searching in a picture naming task. It was found that grapheme monitoring in positive and negative picture names was associated with slower reaction times and enhanced amplitudes of a positive component around 400 ms as compared to monitoring letters in neutral picture names. We propose that this modulation reflects a disruption in phonological encoding processes as a consequence of the capture of attention by affective content. Grapheme monitoring in positive picture names also elicited higher amplitudes than letter searching in neutral image names in a positive component around 100 ms. This amplitude enhancement might be interpreted as a manifestation of the ‘positive offset’ during conceptual preparation processes. The results of a control experiment with a passive viewing task showed that both effects cannot be simply attributed to the processing of the emotional images per se. Overall, it seems that emotion modulates word production at several processing stages.

from Neuropsychologia