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Relations between short-term memory deficits, semantic processing, and executive function

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Background: Previous research has suggested separable short-term memory (STM) buffers for the maintenance of phonological and lexical-semantic information, as some patients with aphasia show better ability to retain semantic than phonological information and others show the reverse. Recently researchers have proposed that deficits to the maintenance of semantic information in STM are related to executive control abilities.

Aims: The present study investigated the relationship of executive function abilities with semantic and phonological short-term memory (STM) and semantic processing in such patients, as some previous research has suggested that semantic STM deficits and semantic processing abilities are critically related to specific or general executive function deficits.

Method & Procedures: A total of 20 patients with aphasia and STM deficits were tested on measures of short-term retention, semantic processing, and both complex and simple executive function tasks.

Outcome & Results: In correlational analyses we found no relation between semantic STM and performance on simple or complex executive function tasks. In contrast, phonological STM was related to executive function performance in tasks that had a verbal component, suggesting that performance in some executive function tasks depends on maintaining or rehearsing phonological codes. Although semantic STM was not related to executive function ability, performance on semantic processing tasks was related to executive function, perhaps due to similar executive task requirements in both semantic processing and executive function tasks.

Conclusions: Implications for treatment and interpretations of executive deficits are discussed.

Keywords: Aphasia; Executive function; Semantics; Short-term memory

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology,Rice University, Houston,TX, USA 2: Communications Sciences, Temple University, Philadelphia,PA, USA

Publication date: March 1, 2012


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