University of Surrey

Test tubes in the lab Research in the ATI Dance Research

Varieties of semantic ‘access’ deficit in Wernicke’s aphasia and semantic aphasia

Thompson, H, Robson, H, Lambon Ralph, MA and Jefferies, E (2015) Varieties of semantic ‘access’ deficit in Wernicke’s aphasia and semantic aphasia Brain: a journal of neurology, 138 (12). pp. 3776-3792.

varieties of semantic access deficit.pdf - Version of Record
Available under License : See the attached licence file.

Download (657kB) | Preview
Text (licence)
Available under License : See the attached licence file.

Download (33kB) | Preview


Comprehension deficits are common in stroke aphasia, including in cases with (i) semantic aphasia, characterized by poor executive control of semantic processing across verbal and non-verbal modalities; and (ii) Wernicke’s aphasia, associated with poor auditory–verbal comprehension and repetition, plus fluent speech with jargon. However, the varieties of these comprehension problems, and their underlying causes, are not well understood. Both patient groups exhibit some type of semantic ‘access’ deficit, as opposed to the ‘storage’ deficits observed in semantic dementia. Nevertheless, existing descriptions suggest that these patients might have different varieties of ‘access’ impairment—related to difficulty resolving competition (in semantic aphasia) versus initial activation of concepts from sensory inputs (in Wernicke’s aphasia). We used a case series design to compare patients with Wernicke’s aphasia and those with semantic aphasia on Warrington’s paradigmatic assessment of semantic ‘access’ deficits. In these verbal and non-verbal matching tasks, a small set of semantically-related items are repeatedly presented over several cycles so that the target on one trial becomes a distractor on another (building up interference and eliciting semantic ‘blocking’ effects). Patients with Wernicke’s aphasia and semantic aphasia were distinguished according to lesion location in the temporal cortex, but in each group, some individuals had additional prefrontal damage. Both of these aspects of lesion variability—one that mapped onto classical ‘syndromes’ and one that did not—predicted aspects of the semantic ‘access’ deficit. Both semantic aphasia and Wernicke’s aphasia cases showed multimodal semantic impairment, although as expected, the Wernicke’s aphasia group showed greater deficits on auditory-verbal than picture judgements. Distribution of damage in the temporal lobe was crucial for predicting the initially ‘beneficial’ effects of stimulus repetition: cases with Wernicke’s aphasia showed initial improvement with repetition of words and pictures, while in semantic aphasia, semantic access was initially good but declined in the face of competition from previous targets. Prefrontal damage predicted the ‘harmful’ effects of repetition: the ability to reselect both word and picture targets in the face of mounting competition was linked to left prefrontal damage in both groups. Therefore, patients with semantic aphasia and Wernicke’s aphasia have partially distinct impairment of semantic ‘access’ but, across these syndromes, prefrontal lesions produce declining comprehension with repetition in both verbal and non-verbal tasks.

Item Type: Article
Subjects : Psychology
Divisions : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Psychology
Authors :
Thompson, H
Robson, H
Lambon Ralph, MA
Jefferies, E
Date : 1 December 2015
Funders : MRC
DOI : 10.1093/brain/awv281
Copyright Disclaimer : © The Author (2015). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Guarantors of Brain.
Uncontrolled Keywords : Semantic, Wernicke, Aphasia, Modality, Refractory
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 04 Nov 2016 10:57
Last Modified : 11 Dec 2018 11:22

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

Information about this web site

© The University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, United Kingdom.
+44 (0)1483 300800