Sentence comprehension and working memory limitation in aphasia: a dissociation between semantic-syntactic and phonological reactivation

Brain Lang. 2003 Jul;86(1):23-39. doi: 10.1016/s0093-934x(02)00530-8.


The relation between working memory (WM) limitation and sentence comprehension was assessed in Hebrew-speaking aphasics, three conduction aphasics and three agrammatics. The study compared sentences that required different types of reactivation-syntactic-semantic reactivation, in relative clauses, and word form/phonological reactivation, in sentences with reanalysis of lexical ambiguity. The effect of phonological memory load, manipulated by number of words intervening between the activation and the reactivation, on comprehension of the two sentence types was examined. The findings were that agrammatic aphasics failed in the comprehension of object relatives but not on subject relatives irrespective of their antecedent-gap distance. Conduction aphasics, on the other hand, who showed severe WM limitation, comprehended well all types of relative clauses and were unaffected by antecedent-gap distance. The conduction aphasics failed to understand the sentences that required phonological reactivation when the phonological distance was long. These results suggest that the type of reactivation required by the sentence, as well as the type of memory overload are crucial in determining the effect of WM limitation on sentence comprehension.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aphasia, Broca / diagnosis
  • Aphasia, Broca / physiopathology*
  • Aphasia, Conduction / diagnosis
  • Aphasia, Conduction / physiopathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linguistics*
  • Memory Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Middle Aged
  • Phonetics
  • Semantics
  • Severity of Illness Index