Deficits in thematic integration processes in Broca’s and Wernicke’s aphasia

Hiroko Nakano, Sheila E. Blumstein

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This study investigated how normal subjects and Broca’s and Wernicke’s aphasics integrate thematic information incrementally using syntax, lexical-semantics , and pragmatics in a simple active declarative sentence. Three priming experiments were conducted using an auditory lexical decision task in which subjects made a lexical decision on a ‘target’ (the last word of each sentence) preceded by a ‘prime’ (a subject noun phrase and verb). The presence and magnitude of priming was compared to a baseline condition in which non-words systematically replaced real word primes. Normal subjects showed evidence for combinatorial thematics by exhibiting significant and larger amounts of thematic priming in the condition where two real words were present in the prime than in the conditions in which only one real word was present in the prime. Additionally, normal subjects showed sensitivity to both syntactic structures and pragmatics. In contrast, Broca’s patients did not show significant priming for any condition nor did they show a difference in the magnitude of priming among the conditions. Nonetheless, they showed sensitivity to pragmatics. Wernicke’s patients showed significant priming for all conditions, but did not show differences in the magnitude of priming among the conditions. However, they showed sensitivity to sentence grammaticality and pragmatics. The distinct patterns of performance of Broca’s and Wernicke’s aphasics are discussed in terms of the nature of their impairments in the processes of combinatorial thematics.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalBrain and Language
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004


  • Psychology

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