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Phonological memory and vocabulary learning in children with focal lesions

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Phonological memory and vocabulary learning in children with focal lesionsIntroductionMethodParticipantsExperimental measuresStandardized testsResults and discussionGeneral discussionAcknowledgementsReferencesPhonological memory and vocabulary learning in children withfocal lesionsPrahlad Gupta,a,*Brian MacWhinney,bHeidi M. Feldman,cand Kelley SaccobaDepartment of Psychology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USAbDepartment of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, USAcDepartment of Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260, USAAccepted 3 April 2003AbstractEleven children with early focal lesions were compared with 70 age-matched controls to assess their performance in repeatingnon-words, in learning new words, and in immediate serial recall, a triad of abilities that are believed to share a dependence on serialordering mechanisms (e.g., Baddeley, Gathercole, & Papagno, 1998; Gupta, in press-a). Results for the experimental group were alsocompared with other assessments previously reported for the same children by MacWhinney, Feldman, Sacco, and Valdees-Peerez(2000). The children with brain injury showed substantial impairment relative to controls in the experimental tasks, in contrast withrelatively unimpaired performance on measures of vocabulary and non-verbal intelligence. The relationships between word learning,non-word repetition, and immediate serial recall were similar to those observed in several other populations. These results supportprevious reports that there are persistent processing impairments following early brain injury, despite developmental plasticity. Theyalso suggest that word learning, non-word repetition, and immediate serial recall may be relatively demanding tasks, and that theirrelationship is a fundamental aspect of the cognitive system.Ó 2003 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.1. IntroductionLearning the vocabulary of a native language is oneof the most important developmental processes a childneeds to undergo. A variety of evidence now suggeststhat human vocabulary acquisition processes and as-pects of human verbal short-term memory may be re-lated. In children, reliable correlations have beenobtained between digit span, non-word repetition abil-ity, and vocabulary achievement, even when other pos-sible factors such as age and non-verbal intelligencehave been factored out (e.g., Gathercole & Baddeley,1989; Gathercole, Willis, Emslie, & Baddeley, 1992).Non-word repetition ability has been shown to be anexcellent predictor of language learning ability in chil-dren learning English as a second language (Service,1992; Service & Kohon en, 1995), and is also associatedwith more rapid learning of the phonology of newwords by children in experimental tasks (Gathercole &Baddeley, 1990b; Gathercole, Hitch, Service, & Martin,1997; Michas & Henry, 1994). In addition, similar re-lationships between these abilities appear to hold inadults (Gupta, in press-a; Papagno, Valen tine, &Baddeley, 1991; Papagno & Vallar, 1992). Thus there isnow a considerable body of evidence to suggest thatword learning, immediate serial recall, and non-wordrepetition are a related triad of abilities (Baddeley et al.,1998; Gathercole & Baddeley, 1993). An emerging viewof this relationship is that immediate serial recall andnon-word repetition are both tasks that draw on themechanisms of verbal short-term memory fairly directly,and that the learning of new words is also in some waysupported by verbal short-term memory (e.g., Baddeleyet al., 1998; Brown & Hulme, 1996; Gathercole, Service,Hitch, Adams, & Martin, 1999; see also Gupta (1996;Gupta & MacWhinney, 1997) for a related but some-what different view).The studies cited above provide evidence about therelationship between these abilities in normally develop-ing children and in normal adults. This relationshiphas also been examined in children diagnosed as havingBrain and Language 87 (2003) 241–252www.elsevier.com/locate/b&l*Corresponding author. Fax: +319-335-0191.E-mail address: [email protected] (P. Gupta).0093-934X/$ - see front matter Ó 2003 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/S0093-934X(03)00094-4specific language impairment (SLI) not attributable toneurological deficit. Although there is considerable de-bate over the nature of SLI (for review, see Bishop, 2000;Evans, 2001), it often involves difficulty in phonologicalprocessing (including the processing of novel phonologi-cal forms, as in non-word repetition), and in lexicallearning (e.g., Bird, Bishop, & Freeman, 1995; Bishop,2000; Windfuhr , Faragher, & Conti-Ramsden, 2002).What is relevant to the present discussion is that deficits innon-word repetition and word learning co-occur withdifficulties in immediate serial recall (Gathercole &Baddeley, 1990a), suggesting that these abilities are re-lated not only unde r normal language development butalso under SLI. It also appears that there is a populationof neuropsychologically impaired ‘‘pure STM’’ patientswho exhibit selective deficits in immediate serial recall butin whom language prod uction and comprehension islargely preserved (e.g., Shallice, 1988). Further investi-gation of their linguistic skills reveals, however, that thesepatientsÕ serial recall deficits are accompanied by deficitsin non-word repetition and word learning ability(Baddeley, 1993; Baddeley, Papagno, & Vallar, 1988).Additionally, the co-occurr ence of linguistic and verbalshort-term memory deficits in adult aphasics has beennoted by a number of investigators and interpreted asindicative of a functional relationship (e.g., N. Martin,Saffran, & Dell, 1996; Saffran, 1990), although other in-vestigators have argued for a separation between verbalshort-term memory buffers and linguistic representations(e.g., R. Martin & Lesch, 1996). Overall, however, therelationships between verbal short-term memory abilitiesand the linguistic processing of novel phonological formsappear to be a rather pervasive aspect of the humancognitive architecture, holding up as they do even underconditions of delayed linguist ic development in children,and under neurological insult in adults.Little is known, however, about the impact of earlyneurological injury on the development of these abilities.Previous studies of the development of language inchildren with early focal lesions suggest that there is agenerally favorable prognosis for language


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