STRUCTURAL PRIMING IN APHASIA USING A BLOCKED STIMULUS DESIGN
Purpose. Sentence production is impaired in many persons with aphasia (PWA). Structural priming, a speaker’s tendency to re-use a previously heard sentence structure, has been shown to facilitate sentence production in PWA. Man et al. (2019), however, found that PWA showed significant priming only in transitive sentences but not in dative sentences when these two different types of sentences were presented in an alternating manner within a session [Man, G., Meehan, S., Martin, N., Branigan, H., Lee, J. (2019). Effects of Verb Overlap on Structural Priming in Dialogue: Implications for Syntactic Learning in Aphasia. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 62, 1933-1950]. This study sought to examine whether presenting transitive vs. dative stimuli in a blocked format would yield more consistent priming effects in PWA.
Methods. Twelve PWA and twelve healthy older adults (HOA) completed a dialogue-like priming task, where participants took turns describing pictures with the experimenter. Importantly, each participant received two blocks of transitive and dative priming. In addition, we repeated verbs between prime and target items for half of each block to test if lexical overlap boosts priming, i.e., lexical boost. We measured how often the participant re-used the same syntactic structure they heard the experimenter produce previously when they described their own picture.
Results. HOA showed significant priming and lexical boost in the transitive block and significant priming in the dative block, replicating Man et al. (2019). PWA, showed near significant priming in the transitive block. Importantly, the priming effect became significant when the verb was repeated between prime and target, indicating lexical boost. However, PWA failed to show priming in the dative block.
Discussion. Using a blocked stimulus design only modulated lexically-mediated priming in transitives for PWA, different from Man et al. (2019). Findings suggest that while it is feasible to use structural priming to ameliorate sentence production deficits in PWA, the presentation of target stimuli would likely not influence outcomes.