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Poster A26, Wednesday, November 8, 10:30 – 11:45 am, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Analysis of executive and attentional (dys)function in chronic stroke aphasia

Rahel Schumacher1, Matthew A. Lambon Ralph1;1Neuroscience and Aphasia Research Unit, School of Biological Sciences, University of Manchester

There is growing awareness that aphasia following a stroke co-occurs with deficits in other cognitive functions (such as memory, attention and executive functions). Such additional deficits have been shown to influence recovery from aphasia and to affect the potential to profit from therapeutic interventions. Even though it is becoming more common to include measures of cognitive functioning in studies with aphasic patients, these additional measures are often either only at a screening level or tap only one specific aspect (e.g., working memory). To date, no systematic analyses covering a broad spectrum of attentional and executive (dys)functions in patients with aphasia have been completed. We administered a substantial number of computerized as well as paper-and-pencil tests measuring language, attentional and executive functions to our database of more than forty aphasic patients. All the patients had a single stroke and were at least one year post-stroke at the time of testing. The group deliberately covers the full range of severity and types of aphasia. Performance in a simple attentional task, measuring their alertness level, was within normal range in the vast majority of patients. However, a quarter of the patients showed reduced selective attention performance, in a third of the patients distractibility was increased, and nearly half of the patients performed below normal range in a test of divided attention. Furthermore, our analysis yielded deficits in non-verbal tests of executive functioning in thirty to fifty percent of the patients, with some notable dissociations between tests. Correlational analyses with language tests yielded significant associations across domains, for instance between a test of semantic matching and several nonverbal tests of executive functioning. Our results allow a deeper understanding of the interrelation between language and other cognitive functions in stroke patients. We show that a broad assessment of attentional and executive functions by means of widely available standardized neuropsychological tests is not only feasible but also highly informative with respect to potential therapeutic targets and a patient’s cognitive resources.

Topic Area: Language Disorders

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