Phonological learning in semantic dementia

Patients with semantic dementia (SD) have anterior temporal lobe (ATL) atrophy that gives rise to a highly selective deterioration of semantic knowledge. Despite pronounced anomia and poor comprehension of words and pictures, SD patients have well-formed, fluent speech and normal digit span. Given the intimate connection between phonological STM and word learning revealed by both neuropsychological and developmental studies, SD patients might be expected to show good acquisition of new phonological forms, even though their ability to map these onto meanings is impaired. In contradiction of these predictions, a limited amount of previous research has found poor learning of new phonological forms in SD. In a series of experiments, we examined whether SD patient, GE, could learn novel phonological sequences and, if so, under which circumstances. GE showed normal benefits of phonological knowledge in STM (i.e., normal phonotactic frequency and phonological similarity effects) but reduced support from semantic memory (i.e., poor immediate serial recall for semantically degraded words, characterised by frequent item errors). Next, we demonstrated normal learning of serial order information for repeated lists of single-digit number words using the Hebb paradigm: these items were well-understood allowing them to be repeated without frequent item errors. In contrast, patient GE showed little learning of nonsense syllable sequences using the same Hebb paradigm. Detailed analysis revealed that both GE and the controls showed a tendency to learn their own errors as opposed to the target items. Finally, we showed normal learning of phonological sequences for GE when he was prevented from repeating his errors. These findings confirm that the ATL atrophy in SD disrupts phonological processing for semantically-degraded words but leaves the phonological architecture intact. Consequently, when item errors are minimised, phonological STM can support the acquisition of new phoneme sequences in patients with SD.

from Neuropsychologia

About Callier Library

Housed at the internationally renowned Callier Center for Communication Disorders, Callier Library a branch facility of the McDermott Library at The University of Texas at Dallas.

Posted on January 29, 2011, in Research and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: