Revealing and quantifying the impaired phonological analysis underpinning impaired comprehension in Wernicke's aphasia

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Abstract

Wernicke's aphasia is a condition which results in severely disrupted language comprehension following a lesion to the left temporo-parietal region. A phonological analysis deficit has traditionally been held to be at the root of the comprehension impairment in Wernicke's aphasia, a view consistent with current functional neuroimaging which finds areas in the superior temporal cortex responsive to phonological stimuli. However behavioural evidence to support the link between a phonological analysis deficit and auditory comprehension has not been yet shown. This study extends seminal work by Blumstein, Baker, and Goodglass (1977) to investigate the relationship between acoustic-phonological perception, measured through phonological discrimination, and auditory comprehension in a case series of Wernicke's aphasia participants. A novel adaptive phonological discrimination task was used to obtain reliable thresholds of the phonological perceptual distance required between nonwords before they could be discriminated. Wernicke's aphasia participants showed significantly elevated thresholds compared to age and hearing matched control participants. Acoustic-phonological thresholds correlated strongly with auditory comprehension abilities in Wernicke's aphasia. In contrast, nonverbal semantic skills showed no relationship with auditory comprehension. The results are evaluated in the context of recent neurobiological models of language and suggest that impaired acoustic-phonological perception underlies the comprehension impairment in Wernicke's aphasia and favour models of language which propose a leftward asymmetry in phonological analysis. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-288
Number of pages12
JournalNEUROPSYCHOLOGIA
Volume50
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012