Intact speech-gesture integration in narrative recall by adults with moderate-severe traumatic brain injury

Clough, S., Padilla, V.-G., Brown-Schmidt, S., & Duff, M. C. (2023). Intact speech-gesture integration in narrative recall by adults with moderate-severe traumatic brain injury. Neuropsychologia, 189: 108665. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2023.108665.

Real-world communication is situated in rich multimodal contexts, containing speech and gesture. Speakers often convey unique information in gesture that is not present in the speech signal (e.g., saying “He searched for a new recipe” while making a typing gesture). We examine the narrative retellings of participants with and without moderate-severe traumatic brain injury across three timepoints over two online Zoom sessions to investigate whether people with TBI can integrate information from co-occurring speech and gesture and if information from gesture persists across delays.


60 participants with TBI and 60 non-injured peers watched videos of a narrator telling four short stories. On key details, the narrator produced complementary gestures that conveyed unique information. Participants retold the stories at three timepoints: immediately after, 20-min later, and one-week later. We examined the words participants used when retelling these key details, coding them as a Speech Match (e.g., “He searched for a new recipe”), a Gesture Match (e.g., “He searched for a new recipe online), or Other (“He looked for a new recipe”). We also examined whether participants produced representative gestures themselves when retelling these details.


Despite recalling fewer story details, participants with TBI were as likely as non-injured peers to report information from gesture in their narrative retellings. All participants were more likely to report information from gesture and produce representative gestures themselves one-week later compared to immediately after hearing the story.


We demonstrated that speech-gesture integration is intact after TBI in narrative retellings. This finding has exciting implications for the utility of gesture to support comprehension and memory after TBI and expands our understanding of naturalistic multimodal language processing in this population.
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