Agrammatic comprehension: An electrophysiological approach
This dissertation focuses on syntactic comprehension problems in patients with Broca's aphasia from an electrophysiological perspective. The central objective of this dissertation was to further explore what syntax-related event-related brain potential (ERP) effects can reveal about the nature of the deficit that underlies syntactic comprehension problems in patients with Broca's aphasia. Chapter two to four describe experiments in which event-related brain potentials were recorded while subjects (Broca patients, non-aphasic patients with a right-hemisphere lesion, and healthy elderly controls) were presented with sentences that contained either violations of syntactic constraints or were syntactically correct. Chapter two investigates ERP effects of subject-verb agreement violations in the different subject groups, and seeks to answer the following questions: Do agrammatic comprehenders show sensitivity to subject-verb agreement violations as indicated by a syntax-related ERP effect? In addition, does the severity of the syntactic comprehension impairment in the Broca patients affect the ERP responses? Chapter three describes an investigation of whether Broca patients show sensitivity to violations of word order as indicated by a syntax-related ERP effect, and whether the ERP responses in the Broca patients are affected by the severity of their syntactic comprehension impairment. Chapter four reports on ERP effects of violations of word-category. In addition, also a semantic violation condition was added to track possible dissociations in the sensitivity to semantic and syntactic information in the Broca patients. Chapter five describes the development of a paradigm in which the electrophysiological approach and the classical sentence-picture matching approach are combined. In this chapter, the ERP method is applied to study on-line thematic role assignment in Broca patients during sentence-picture matching. Also the relation between ERP effects and behavioral responses is pursued. Finally, Chapter 6 provides a summary of the main findings of the experiments and a general discussion.
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