Improving sentence comprehension post-stroke using neuroimaging and neuropsychological approaches
Cognitive deficits often accompany language impairments post-stroke. Past research has focused on working memory in aphasia, but attention is largely underexplored. Therefore, this dissertation will first quantify attention deficits post-stroke before investigating whether preserved cognitive abilities, including attention, can improve auditory sentence comprehension post-stroke. In Experiment 1a, three components of attention (alerting, orienting, executive control) were measured in persons with aphasia and matched-controls using visual and auditory versions of the well-studied Attention Network Test. Experiment 1b then explored the neural resources supporting each component of attention in the visual and auditory modalities in chronic stroke participants. The results from Experiment 1a indicate that alerting, orienting, and executive control are uniquely affected by presentation modality. The lesion-symptom mapping results from Experiment 1b associated the left angular gyrus with visual executive control, the left supramarginal gyrus with auditory alerting, and Broca’s area (pars opercularis) with auditory orienting attention post-stroke. Overall, these findings indicate that perceptual modality may impact the lateralization of some aspects of attention, thus auditory attention may be more susceptible to impairment after a left hemisphere stroke.
Prosody, rhythm and pitch changes associated with spoken language may improve spoken language comprehension in persons with aphasia by recruiting intact cognitive abilities (e.g., attention and working memory) and their associated non-lesioned brain regions post-stroke. Therefore, Experiment 2 explored the relationship between cognition, two unique prosody manipulations, lesion location, and auditory sentence comprehension in persons with chronic stroke and matched-controls. The combined results from Experiment 2a and 2b indicate that stroke participants with better auditory orienting attention and a specific left fronto-parietal network intact had greater comprehension of sentences spoken with sentence prosody. For list prosody, participants with deficits in auditory executive control and/or short-term memory and the left angular gyrus and globus pallidus relatively intact, demonstrated better comprehension of sentences spoken with list prosody. Overall, the results from Experiment 2 indicate that following a left hemisphere stroke, individuals need good auditory attention and an intact left fronto-parietal network to benefit from typical sentence prosody, yet when cognitive deficits are present and this fronto-parietal network is damaged, list prosody may be more beneficial.