Introduction: The investigation of word generation performance is an accepted, widely used, and well-established method for examining cognitive, language, or communication impairment due to brain damage. The performance measure traditionally applied in the investigation of word generation is the number of correct responses. Previous studies, however, have suggested that this measure does not capture all potentially relevant aspects of word generation performance and hence its underlying processes, so that its analytical and explanatory power of word generation performance might be rather limited. Therefore, additional qualitative or quantitative performance measures have been introduced to gain information that goes beyond the deficit and allows for therapeutic implications.
Method: We undertook a systematic review and meta-analysis of original research that focused on the application of additional measures of word generation performance in adult clinical populations with acquired brain injury.
Results: Word generation tasks are an integral part of many different tests, but only few use additional performance measures in addition to the number of correct responses in the analysis of word generation performance. Additional measures, which showed increased or similar diagnostic utility relative to the traditional performance measure, regarded clustering and switching, error types, and temporal characteristics.
Conclusions: The potential of additional performance measures is not yet fully exhausted in patients with brain injury. The temporal measure of response latencies in particular is not adequately represented, though it may be a reliable measure especially for identifying subtle impairments. Unfortunately, there is no general consensus as of yet on which additional measures are best suited to characterizing word generation performance. Further research is needed to specify the additional parameters that are best qualified for identifying and characterizing impaired word generation performance.
Keywords: Brain injury; Performance measure; Qualitative analysis; Verbal fluency; Word generation.