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How emotions affect word retrieval in people with aphasia

People with.

Although previous research has found that emotional stimuli can improve the performance of people with aphasia on listening comprehension, reading and writing, and repetition tasks, this is one of the first studies of its kind on the effects of emotions on memory retrieval. words, said lead author Stacy Harnish, associate professor of speech and hearing sciences at Ohio State.

“This has practical implications but also theoretical importance,” Harnish said. “When we see behaviors in people that signal differences between emotional and non-emotional words, that tells us that something is happening in the brain to process these stimuli differently. So that justifies interrogating it more, finding out why it is that way and developing it.”

The study involved 13 people with aphasia and 13 neurotypical people as controls who participated in four single-word naming tasks: two picture-based tasks for naming objects or actions represented by a picture, and two word-based tasks for naming words. that fit into a category or verbs that logically accompany the word used as an indication.

The images and words used as stimuli had previously been validated as carrying a negative or positive emotional context or as neutral. Negative images included skulls, trash, and kicks, and negative words included disaster, poison, and mold. Positive images included pictures of bunnies and a waterfall, while positive words included food and a pillow. In total, the tasks totaled 219 picture and word messages equally divided into negative, positive, or neutral context categories.

Although there were some nuances and variations in the results, a pattern emerged in people with aphasia as a group. Emotional pictures and words, primarily those with negative meaning but also many with positive contexts, resulted in poorer naming performance in terms of word accuracy and time taken to respond compared to results for neutral words and pictures. .

The results showed similar effects of emotional stimuli on neurotypical study participants’ performance on word retrieval tasks, although to a lesser degree, suggesting that there may be some universality in the way emotions place demands on the brain that compromise this specific type of language processing.

In fact, Schwen Blackett hoped that an earlier study he conducted in people who did not have aphasia would show that emotions surrounding stimuli would generate strong word retrieval performance, possibly by tapping into the right hemisphere of the brain to boost language processing in brain. left hemisphere. But he found that in a single word retrieval task, the opposite was true.

“So this new study using varied tasks validated and replicated those findings: We saw the same thing in people with mild to moderate aphasia, but to a greater magnitude than what was seen in neurotypical people,” said Schwen Blackett, now a postdoctoral fellow. at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Harnish and Schwen Blackett theorized that simultaneous emotional arousal and language processing led to the fragmentation of the brain’s attentional capacities: overlapping regions involved in both types of processing are activated to attend to the physiological and memory components of an emotional response. , which interferes with focused attention. about the language necessary for good performance in word retrieval.

The team said more research is needed to fully understand the effect of emotional stimuli on people with aphasia, even in patients with different origins of aphasia.

“Deena’s work is at the forefront of emotional processing in word retrieval,” Harnish said. “We want to take advantage of it now and see where she goes.”

This work was supported by grants from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Other co-authors were Shari Speer and Xueliang Pan of Ohio State and Joan Borod of Queens College.

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