Blog Archives

Effect of musical experience on verbal memory in Williams syndrome: Evidence from a novel word learning task

Williams syndrome (WS) is a neurogenetic developmental disorder characterized by an increased affinity for music, deficits in verbal memory, and atypical brain development. Music has been shown to improve verbal memory in typical individuals as well as those with learning difficulties, but no studies have examined this relationship in WS. The aim of our two studies was to examine whether music can enhance verbal memory in individuals with WS. In Study 1, we presented a memory task of eight spoken or sung sentences that described an animal and identified its group name to 38 individuals with WS. Study 2, involving another group of individuals with WS (n = 38), included six spoken or sung sentences that identified an animal group name. In both studies, those who had participated in formal music lessons scored significantly better on the verbal memory task when the sentences were sung than when they were spoken. Those who had not taken formal lessons showed no such benefit. We also found that increased enjoyment of music and heightened emotional reactions to music did not impact performance on the memory task. These compelling findings provide the first evidence that musical experience may enhance verbal memory in individuals with WS and shed more light on the complex relationship between aspects of cognition and altered neurodevelopment in this unique disorder.

from Neuropsychologia

Right temporal lobe plays a role in verbal memory

Conclusion: These results suggest that the right temporal lobe plays a role in verbal memory and that this function may be associated with the right ILF.

from Neurological Research

Tip-of-the-tongue for proper names in mild cognitive impairment. Semantic or post-semantic impairments?

Difficulty in recalling the names of people is very common in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and in mild cognitive impairment (MCI). However, it is not known whether the difficulty in naming people in MCI reflects problems associated with lexical access or with semantic access. The aims of the present study were to investigate semantic and phonological access to proper names by use of a Tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) task in individuals with multidomain amnestic MCI, individuals with amnestic MCI, and healthy controls, as well as to study the relationships between TOT production and performance in a free recall verbal memory test. In the individuals with multidomain amnestic MCI, the main process affected was phonological access; failures in phonological access were related to deficits in general cognitive functioning and in free recall verbal memory. Semantic access was not impaired in the either type of MCI. We interpret the findings in light of the transmission deficit hypothesis, as MCI involves a greater deficit in transmission from semantic to phonological representations than that produced by normal aging. We suggest that failure in phonological access may be the first step in the progression from MCI to AD as regards naming difficulties.

from the Journal of Neurolinguistics

Nicotine effects on immediate and delayed verbal memory after substance use detoxification

Decrements in verbal memory are commonly reported by detoxified treatment-seeking individuals. Although acute nicotine has been shown to improve attentional performance, its effects on verbal memory in substance abusers have not been addressed. Treatment-seeking alcohol-dependent (ALCs, n = 29; 14 male), illicit-stimulant-dependent (predominantly cocaine; STIMs, n = 25; 15 male), and alcohol- and illicit-stimulant-dependent (ALC/STIMs, n = 50; 35 male) participants with comorbid nicotine dependence were studied. Subjects had been abstinent from their drugs of choice for 41 (±18) days and were in short-term abstinence from tobacco (∼8-10 hours). Subjects received double-blind administration of either transdermal nicotine (high dose: 21/14 mg for men and women, respectively, or low dose: 7 mg) or placebo. The Logical Memory (LM) subtest from the Wechsler Memory Scale-Revised (WMS-R) was used to assess immediate and delayed verbal memory recall. Results indicated that STIMs receiving the high dose of nicotine recalled more words at immediate recall than STIMs who received placebo. Trend level differences were also noted at delayed recall between STIM nicotine and placebo doses. Nicotine failed to impact either recall in alcoholic subgroups. Although not the primary focus, results also revealed differences in the forgetting rates between the groups with the ALC/STIMs demonstrating the steepest forgetting slope. In summary, this study suggests that nicotine effects may be differentially experienced by substance-using subgroups; that nicotine may have a direct effect on memory; and that in considering neurocognitive processes (e.g., encoding vs. retrieval), underlying endpoint indicators (e.g., correct recall) may be critical in predicting outcomes.

from the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology

Improving digit span assessment of short-term verbal memory

We measured digit span (DS) in two experiments that used computerized presentation of randomized auditory digits with performance-adapted list length adjustment. A new mean span (MS) metric of DS was developed that showed reduced variance, improved test-retest reliability, and higher correlations with the results of other neuropsychological test results when compared to traditional DS measures. The MS metric also enhanced the sensitivity of forward versus backward span comparisons, enabled the development of normative performance criteria with subdigit precision, and elucidated changes in DS performance with age and education level. Computerized stimulus delivery and improved scoring metrics significantly enhance the precision of DS assessments of short-term verbal memory.

from the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology

Specific language and reading skills in school-aged children and adolescents are associated with prematurity after controlling for IQ

Although studies of long-term outcomes of children born preterm consistently show low intelligence quotient (IQ) and visual-motor impairment, studies of their performance in language and reading have found inconsistent results. In this study, we examined which specific language and reading skills were associated with prematurity independent of the effects of gender, socioeconomic status (SES), and IQ. Participants from two study sites (N = 100) included 9–16-year old children born before 36 weeks gestation weighing less than 2500 grams (preterm group, n = 65) compared to children born at 37 weeks gestation or more (full-term group, n = 35). Children born preterm had significantly lower scores than full-term controls on Performance IQ, Verbal IQ, receptive and expressive language skills, syntactic comprehension, linguistic processing speed, verbal memory, decoding, and reading comprehension but not on receptive vocabulary. Using MANCOVA, we found that SES, IQ, and prematurity all contributed to the variance in scores on a set of six non-overlapping measures of language and reading. Simple regression analyses found that after controlling for SES and Performance IQ, the degree of prematurity as measured by gestational age group was a significant predictor of linguistic processing speed, β = −.27, p < .05, R2 = .07, verbal memory, β = .31, p < .05, R2 = .09, and reading comprehension, β = .28, p < .05, R2 = .08, but not of receptive vocabulary, syntactic comprehension, or decoding. The language and reading domains where prematurity had a direct effect can be classified as fluid as opposed to crystallized functions and should be monitored in school-age children and adolescents born preterm.

from Neuropsychologia

Assessment of the Rbans Visual and Verbal Indices in a Sample of Neurologically Impaired Elderly Participants

With increases in the older adult population, brief assessments sensitive to dementia are essential. This study assessed the effectiveness of the verbal memory and visual processing indices proposed by Duff et al. (2009) to differentiate participants with neurological disorders. Participants included individuals diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI; n = 38), Alzheimer’s disease (AD; n = 100), or Parkinson’s disease (PD; n = 35), with ages ranging from 65-93 years. In addition, normal control participants (n = 100) within the same age range were used for comparison. ANOVA and posthoc analyses revealed that the normal control and AD groups were significantly different from all groups for Verbal and Visual Indices. However, the MCI and PD groups did not differ from each other. Predictive discriminant analysis (PDA) assessed classification rates of the groups, and the normal participants were classified best (63% to 92%). The AD group followed with percentages ranging from 64% to 76%. Specifically, when classifying the normal and AD groups using both Verbal and Visual Indices of the RBANS together, sensitivity was 92.0% (n = 92) and specificity was 79.0% (n = 79). Overall classification rates for this analysis were 85.5%. Overall, the RBANS Verbal and Visual Indices may provide additional information when working with neurologically impaired older adults, with overall classification rates ranging from 61.5% to 85.5%.

from Clinical Neurophychologist

Normative Data for a Six-Trial Administration of a Spanish Version of the Verbal Selective Reminding Test

Normative data for 884 neurologically normal adults (15–93) are provided for a six-trial administration of Form 1 of the Spanish version of the Verbal Selective Reminding Test (VSRT). Form 2 was also administered to 391 adults (18–87). Age was the most important predictor of performance on all VSRT scores in Forms 1 and 2. Additionally, women and higher educated participants outperformed men and lower educated participants over the entire age range studied. Normative data are grouped by seven age cohorts: 15–29, 30–39, 40–49, 50–59, 60–69, 70–79, and 80–95.

from Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology

Dyslexia, a deficit or a difference: Comparing the creativity and memory skills of dyslexic and nondyslexic students in Iran

Positive and negative aspects of dyslexia were explored within the Iranian context. Dyslexia can be considered either as a deficit or merely as a difference. In this study 26 dyslexic primary-school students in Tehran were matched with 26 nondyslexics. The Shirazi and Nilipur (2004) Diagnostic Reading Test was administered to identify any significant difference in reading ability between the two groups. Then the Torrance (1974; as cited in Alizadeh, 1994) Creativity Test (Form B, picture subtest) and the Cornoldi (1995; as cited in Kakavand, 2003) Test of Visual-Spatial and Verbal Memory were used. Nondyslexics outperformed dyslexics significantly in visual-verbal memory of words for concrete objects and abstract concepts and in audio-verbal memory of words for abstract concepts. Dyslexic students performed significantly better in visual and audio memory of concrete words compared to abstract concepts; their visual-spatial memory was better than their visual-semantic memory, and their pictorial memory was also better than their verbal memory. Dyslexic students scored higher than nondyslexics for original thinking and equally as high in overall creativity. These findings indicate that a change of attitude is needed toward dyslexics.


Chronic temporal lobe epilepsy: a neurodevelopmental or progressively dementing disease?

To what degree does the so-called ‘initial hit’ of the brain versus chronic epilepsy contribute towards the memory impairment observed in chronic temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) patients? We examined cross-sectional comparisons of age-related regressions of verbal learning and memory in 1156 patients with chronic TLE (age range 6–68 years, mean epilepsy onset 14 ± 11 years) versus 1000 healthy control subjects (age range 6–80 years) and tested the hypothesis that deviations of age regressions (i.e. slowed rise, accelerated decline) will reveal critical phases during which epilepsy interferes with cognitive development. Patients were recruited over a 20-year period at the Department of Epileptology, University of Bonn. Healthy subjects were drawn from an updated normative population of the Verbaler Lern- und Merkfähigkeitstest, the German pendant to the Rey Auditory Verbal learning Test. A significant divergence of age regressions indicates that patients fail to build up adequate learning and memory performance during childhood and particularly during adolescence. The learning peak (i.e. crossover into decline) is seen earlier in patients (at about the age of 16–17 years) than for controls (at about the age of 23–24 years). Decline in performance with ageing in patients and controls runs in parallel, but due to the initial distance between the groups, patients reach very poor performance levels much earlier than controls. Patients with left and right TLEs performed worse in verbal memory than controls. In addition, patients with left TLE performed worse than those with right TLE. However, laterality differences were evident only in adolescent and adult patients, and not (or less so) in children and older patients. Independent of age, hippocampal sclerosis was associated with poorer performance than other pathologies. The results indicate developmental hindrance plus a negative interaction of cognitive impairment with mental ageing, rather than a progressively dementing decline in chronic TLE patients. During childhood, and even more so during the decade following puberty, the critical phases for establishing episodic memory deficits appear. This increases the risk of premature ‘dementia’ later on, even in the absence of an accelerated decline. Material specific verbal memory impairment in left TLE is a characteristic of the mature brain and seems to disappear at an older age. The findings suggest that increased attention is to be paid to the time of epilepsy onset and thereafter. Early control of epilepsy is demanded to counteract developmental hindrance and damage at a younger age.

from Brain

Functional Outcome at School Age of Preterm Infants With Periventricular Hemorrhagic Infarction

The majority of surviving preterm children with periventricular hemorrhagic infarction had cerebral palsy with limited functional impairment at school age. Intelligence was within 1 SD of the norm of preterm children without lesions in 60% to 80% of the children. Verbal memory, in particular, was affected. Behavioral and executive function problems occurred slightly more than in preterm infants without lesions. The functional outcome at school age of preterm children with periventricular hemorrhagic infarction is better than previously thought.

from Pediatrics

Validity of the Bracken School Readiness Assessment for predicting first grade readiness

The Bracken School Readiness Assessment (BSRA) was administered to all kindergarten students enrolled in two rural elementary schools in the fall of 2004. Eight months later, the reading portion of the Metropolitan Readiness Tests, 6th Edition (MRT-6) was administered. Teachers were asked to indicate whether they had concerns about each student’s readiness for first grade and whether students had been retained or referred for other assessment(s) or services. The BSRA was found to be a good predictor of children’s readiness ratings, as well as their retention or referral for services. It also predicted performance on the MRT-6. This study partially validated the use of the BSRA as a screening measure to predict kindergarten performance and kindergarten teachers’ ratings of first grade readiness. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

from Psychology in the Schools

Use of prosodic cues in the production of idiomatic and literal sentences by individuals with right- and left-hemisphere damage

The neural bases of prosody during the production of literal and idiomatic interpretations of literally plausible idioms was investigated. Left- and right-hemisphere-damaged participants and normal controls produced literal and idiomatic versions of idioms (He hit the books.) All groups modulated duration to distinguish the interpretations. LHD patients, however, showed typical speech timing difficulties. RHD patients did not differ from the normal controls. The results partially support a differential lateralization of prosodic cues in the two cerebral hemispheres [Van Lancker, D., & Sidtis, J. J. (1992). The identification of affective-prosodic stimuli by left- and right-hemisphere-damaged subjects: All errors are not created equal. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 35, 963–970]. Furthermore, extended final word lengthening appears to mark idiomaticity.

from Brain and Language

Binding of verbal and spatial features in auditory working memory

The present study investigated the binding of verbal identity and spatial location in the retention of sequences of spatially distributed acoustic stimuli. Study stimuli varying in verbal content and spatial location (e.g. V1S1, V2S2, V3S3, V4S4) were followed by a recognition probe stimulus. A critical test of the binding or integration of the verbal and spatial features of the study stimuli comprised a comparison of intact probes that preserved the association of those features (e.g. V2S2 or V3S3) with recombined probes (e.g. V2S3 or V2S3) that used verbal and spatial features from study items, but in new combinations. A series of five experiments showed evidence of the binding of sound identity and location information for both verbal stimuli (spoken letters) and artificial non-verbal stimuli. While binding tended to be stronger for the more recent items of the sequence, there was consistent evidence of the retention of associations of features for the early sequence items, suggesting durability of binding of auditory features over time (at least 5.5 s) and despite the interpolated processing of other stimuli. Both spatial and verbal recognition judgments were affected by the association of verbal and spatial features when the test procedure required attention to the two classes of information. However, when participants were able to focus attention on one class of information and ignore the other, spatial recognition judgments showed an advantage for intact probes compared to recombined probes, whereas verbal recognition judgments did not. The results are discussed with reference to the primacy of identity and location in the representation of sounds in working memory.

from the Journal of Memory and Language

Working memory capacity for spoken sentences decreases with adult ageing: Recall of fewer but not smaller chunks in older adults

from Memory

Previous studies show that older adults have poorer immediate recall for language but the reason is unknown. Older adults may recall fewer chunks from working memory, or may have difficulty binding words together to form multi-unit chunks. We examined these two hypotheses by presenting four types of spoken sentences for immediate free recall, differing in the number and length of chunks per trial: four short, simple sentences; eight such sentences; four compound sentences, each incorporating two meaningful, short sentences; and four random word lists, each under a sentence-like intonation. Older adults recalled words from (accessed) fewer clauses than young adults, but there was no ageing deficit in the degree of completion of clauses that were accessed. An age-related decline in working memory capacity measured in chunks appears to account for deficits in memory for spoken language.