The objectives of this research program are to determine whether age-related changes in discourse processes correspond to age-related changes in cognitive processes and to test hypotheses regarding discourse processing across the adult lifespan. Discourse processing is the most complex form of language processing and requires linguistic competence (e.g., comprehension) as well as linguistic performance (e.g., production). It has been suggested that age-related changes in language and cognition are related. However, a comprehensive and systematic description of age-related changes in discourse processing is lacking. The proposed research program will address this gap in aging research by evaluating the investigators' comprehensive discourse processing model that includes the multiple linguistic components and cognitive operations involved in discourse production. The significance of the proposed research program is that it charts change in discourse processes and cognitive processes across the adult lifespan in 10-year age cohorts (20s - 80s) and identifies how age-related changes in cognitive functions contribute to age-related changes in within-sentence and between-sentence processes.
The specific aims of the proposed project are to: (1) determine how changes in memory and attention across the life span relate to competence and performance of narrative and procedural discourse, (2) document which aspect or aspects of discourse are most sensitive to aging in healthy adult cohorts, and (3) investigate age-related changes in comprehension of narratives across the adult lifespan. Structural equation modeling will be used to analyze the concurrent relationships between our latent variables of interest (cognition and linguistic processing) and manifest variables of interest (within and between sentence processes, linguistic competence and standardized measures of memory and attention). To address the second and third aims we have developed a series of subexperiments to answer our questions of interest; these data will be analyzed using classical ANOVAs as well as nonparametric (Wilcoxon) analyses. Results of this research will inform theories of discourse and cognitive aging as well as provide a normative database for clinical application to individuals with communication disorders associated with aging disorders and acquired neurogenic communication disorders. ? ? ?

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Language and Communication Study Section (LCOM)
Program Officer
King, Jonathan W
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Arizona State University-Tempe Campus
Other Health Professions
Schools of Allied Health Profes
United States
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Capilouto, Gilson J; Wright, Heather Harris; Maddy, Katherine McComas (2016) Microlinguistic processes that contribute to the ability to relay main events: influence of age. Neuropsychol Dev Cogn B Aging Neuropsychol Cogn 23:445-63
Kintz, Stephen; Wright, Heather Harris; Fergadiotis, Gerasimos (2016) Semantic Knowledge Use in Discourse Produced by Individuals with Anomic Aphasia. Aphasiology 30:1012-1025
Fergadiotis, Gerasimos; Wright, Heather Harris; Green, Samuel B (2015) Psychometric Evaluation of Lexical Diversity Indices: Assessing Length Effects. J Speech Lang Hear Res 58:840-52
Wright, Heather Harris; Koutsoftas, Anthony D; Capilouto, Gilson J et al. (2014) Global coherence in younger and older adults: Influence of cognitive processes and discourse type. Neuropsychol Dev Cogn B Aging Neuropsychol Cogn 21:174-96
Fergadiotis, Gerasimos; Wright, Heather H; West, Thomas M (2013) Measuring lexical diversity in narrative discourse of people with aphasia. Am J Speech Lang Pathol 22:S397-408
Wright, Heather Harris; Capilouto, Gilson J; Koutsoftas, Anthony (2013) Evaluating measures of global coherence ability in stories in adults. Int J Lang Commun Disord 48:249-56
Wright, Heather Harris; Fergadiotis, Gerasimos (2012) Conceptualizing and Measuring Working Memory and its Relationship to Aphasia. Aphasiology 26:258-278
Wills, Courtney L; Capilouto, Gilson J; Wright, Heather Harris (2012) Attention and Off-Topic Speech in the Recounts of Middle-Age and Elderly Adults: A Pilot Investigation. Contemp Issues Commun Sci Disord 39:105-112
Wright, Heather Harris; Capilouto, Gilson J (2012) Considering a multi-level approach to understanding maintenance of global coherence in adults with aphasia. Aphasiology 26:656-672
Fergadiotis, Gerasimos; Wright, Heather Harris (2011) Lexical diversity for adults with and without aphasia across discourse elicitation tasks. Aphasiology 25:1414-1430

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