Aphasia is a communication disorder that can occur after stroke and impacts approximately one-third of stroke survivors. One of the hallmark symptoms of aphasia is anomia or difficulty thinking of the word one wants to use (i.e., word retrieval). Due to the prevalence of anomia across people with aphasia (PWA), many assessment and treatment approaches have focused on this symptom. Choosing appropriate stimuli is important to diagnostic and treatment success. Characteristics of pictured or written stimuli (e.g. word frequency or imageability) impact the ease with which one is able to recall words and have subsequently influenced language assessment and treatment design. Emotion is another variable that may impact word retrieval, but has not been thoroughly investigated. PWA have previously demonstrated superior language performance for emotional compared to non- emotional stimuli on a range of language tasks including auditory comprehension,5,61 verbal pragmatics,9 repetition,60 and reading and writing,40 suggesting that emotion favorably impacts language processing for this population. There is sparse literature investigating the emotion facilitation effect in PWA in quantity and in scope, assessing only a limited number of language processes. Furthermore, there have been no attempts to integrate the variable of emotion into existing word retrieval models. There is a need to better understand the role emotion plays in language to improve our word retrieval models and subsequently inform clinical practice. To accomplish this, it will be important to understand the effect of emotion on word retrieval in neurologically-intact (NI) adults and to compare them to adults with aphasia. To fill the gaps discussed above, two experiments are proposed to investigate the effect of emotion on word retrieval in NI younger and older adults (Aim 1) and in PWA (Aim 2). Participants will engage in a series of single- word production tasks (object picture naming, action picture naming, object/action word reading, and object/action word repetition) that include positive, negative, and neutral stimuli to a) compare within-group differences among emotional valence groups, b) compare differences among language tasks, and c) compare between-group differences between younger and older adults and between PWA and age-matched NI controls. Potential moderating variables, including arousal and age, will be accounted for in the proposed project. In addition, a theory is presented to support our hypotheses, which considers contemporary word retrieval models. The fellowship training plan will include formalized courses and independent studies to enhance background knowledge in word retrieval and emotion processing, research design, and statistical analysis. In addition, the training plan will include workshops and other experiences aimed at improving scientific dissemination and grant writing skills. The research training will take place at a large, research-intensive university under the direction of a strong, well-matched mentorship team.

Public Health Relevance

A hallmark symptom of aphasia, a communication disorder that impacts approximately one-third of stroke survivors, is anomia (i.e., difficulty thinking of the word one wants to use). Current language models fail to consider the potential impact of emotional stimuli on word retrieval, which could impact language assessment and treatment in the aging and aphasia populations. This study aims to clarify the role of emotion in word retrieval in normal aging and aphasia to improve upon word retrieval models and inform language assessment and treatment.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZDC1)
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Rivera-Rentas, Alberto L
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Ohio State University
Other Health Professions
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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