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Musical syntactic processing in agrammatic Broca's aphasia


Wassenaar,  Marlies
Neurocognition of Language Processing, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
The Neurobiology of Language, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

Hagoort,  Peter
Neurobiology of Language Group, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
FC Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, external;
The Neurobiology of Language, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Patel, A. D., Iversen, J. R., Wassenaar, M., & Hagoort, P. (2008). Musical syntactic processing in agrammatic Broca's aphasia. Aphasiology, 22(7/8), 776-789. doi:10.1080/02687030701803804.

Background: Growing evidence for overlap in the syntactic processing of language and music in non-brain-damaged individuals leads to the question of whether aphasic individuals with grammatical comprehension problems in language also have problems processing structural relations in music. Aims: The current study sought to test musical syntactic processing in individuals with Broca's aphasia and grammatical comprehension deficits, using both explicit and implicit tasks. Methods & Procedures: Two experiments were conducted. In the first experiment 12 individuals with Broca's aphasia (and 14 matched controls) were tested for their sensitivity to grammatical and semantic relations in sentences, and for their sensitivity to musical syntactic (harmonic) relations in chord sequences. An explicit task (acceptability judgement of novel sequences) was used. The second experiment, with 9 individuals with Broca's aphasia (and 12 matched controls), probed musical syntactic processing using an implicit task (harmonic priming). Outcomes & Results: In both experiments the aphasic group showed impaired processing of musical syntactic relations. Control experiments indicated that this could not be attributed to low-level problems with the perception of pitch patterns or with auditory short-term memory for tones. Conclusions: The results suggest that musical syntactic processing in agrammatic aphasia deserves systematic investigation, and that such studies could help probe the nature of the processing deficits underlying linguistic agrammatism. Methodological suggestions are offered for future work in this little-explored area.