Authors: Tuomiranta L, Rautakoski P, Rinne J, Martin N, Laine M
Title: Long-term maintenance of novel vocabulary in persons with chronic aphasia
Source: Aphasiology 2012 26(8): 1053-1073
Year: 2012
Research Design: Single Case Design

Background: The study of novel word learning in aphasia can shed light on the functionality of patients’ learning mechanisms and potentially help in treatment planning. Previous studies have indicated that persons with aphasia are able to learn some new vocabulary. However, these learning outcomes appear short-lived and evidence for the ability to use the newly learned words in the long term is lacking. Aims: Participants with aphasia and matched controls underwent short training where they were taught to name novel objects with novel names. We studied the participants’ word learning and particularly their long-term maintenance. We also examined whether the language and verbal short-term memory impairments of the participants with aphasia related to their ability to acquire and maintain phonological and semantic information on novel words. Methods & Procedures: Two participants with nonfluent aphasia, LL and AR, and two matched controls took part in the experiment. They were taught to name 20 unfamiliar objects by repeating the names in the presence of the object picture. Half of the items carried a definition that was used to probe incidental semantic learning. There were four training sessions, a post-training test, and follow-up tests up to 6 months post-training. Learning measures included recognition of the trained objects, as well as spontaneous and cued recall in visual confrontation naming. Incidental semantic learning was measured by spontaneous recall of the definitions. Outcomes & Results: Combining spontaneous and phonologically cued responses, LL acquired 70% and AR 55% of the novel words. With phonological cueing, LL named 50% of the items correctly up to 6 months post-training (vs 95–100% for the controls) and AR 25% up to 8 weeks post-training. AR’s lexical-semantic processing, pseudoword repetition and verbal short-term capacity were inferior to those of LL. In line with this, AR learned fewer words and showed more decline in recognition memory for the trained items, and weaker recall of the semantic definitions. Conclusions: Our results support previous findings that people with aphasia can learn to name novel items. More importantly, the results show for the first time that, with phonological cueing, an individual with aphasia can maintain some of this learning up to 6 months post-training. Moreover the results provide further evidence for the significance of the functional status of lexical-semantic processing on word learning success.

Access: Paywall