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Cognition and sentence comprehension in noise (Fitzhugh et al., 2021)

posted on 2021-07-21, 00:43 authored by Megan C. Fitzhugh, Arianna N. LaCroix, Corianne Rogalsky
Purpose: Sentence comprehension deficits are common following a left hemisphere stroke and have primarily been investigated under optimal listening conditions. However, ample work in neurotypical controls indicates that background noise affects sentence comprehension and the cognitive resources it engages. The purpose of this study was to examine how background noise affects sentence comprehension poststroke using both energetic and informational maskers. We further sought to identify whether sentence comprehension in noise abilities are related to poststroke cognitive abilities, specifically working memory and/or attentional control.
Method: Twenty persons with chronic left hemisphere stroke completed a sentence–picture matching task where they listened to sentences presented in three types of maskers: multispeakers, broadband noise, and silence (control condition). Working memory, attentional control, and hearing thresholds were also assessed.
Results: A repeated-measures analysis of variance identified participants to have the greatest difficulty with the multispeakers condition, followed by broadband noise and then silence. Regression analyses, after controlling for age and hearing ability, identified working memory as a significant predictor of listening engagement (i.e., mean reaction time) in broadband noise and multispeakers and attentional control as a significant predictor of informational masking effects (computed as a reaction time difference score where broadband noise is subtracted from multispeakers).
Conclusions: The results from this study indicate that background noise impacts sentence comprehension abilities poststroke and that these difficulties may arise due to deficits in the cognitive resources supporting sentence comprehension and not other factors such as age or hearing. These findings also highlight a relationship between working memory abilities and sentence comprehension in background noise. We further suggest that attentional control abilities contribute to sentence comprehension by supporting the additional demands associated with informational masking.

Supplemental Material S1. Individual participant data.

Supplemental Material S2. Multiple regression models predicting mean RT and RT difference scores for persons with aphasia only.

Supplemental Material S3. Multiple regression models predicting mean RT and RT difference scores for participants with impaired and unimpaired working memory.

Fitzhugh, M. C., LaCroix, A. N., & Rogalsky, C. (2021). Distinct contributions of working memory and attentional control to sentence comprehension in noise in persons with stroke. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication.


This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (DC009659, PI: G. Hickok; T32AG000037, M. Fitzhugh) and the American Heart Association predoctoral fellowship (18PRE33990328, A. LaCroix).