Abstract

Several neuropsychological studies have shown that patients with brain damage may demonstrate selective category-specific deficits of auditory comprehension. The present paper reports on an investigation of aphasic patients' preserved ability to perform a semantic task on spoken words despite severe impairment in auditory comprehension, as shown by failure in matching spoken words to pictured objects. Twenty-six aphasic patients (11 women and 15 men) with impaired speech comprehension due to a left-hemisphere ischaemic stroke were examined; all were right-handed and native speakers of Polish. Six narrowly defined semantic categories for which dissociations have been reported are colors, body parts, animals, food, objects (mostly tools), and means of transportation. An analysis using one-way ANOVA with repeated measures in conjunction with the Lambda-Wilks Test revealed significant discrepancies among these categories in aphasic patients, who had much more difficulty comprehending names of colors than they did comprehending names of other objects (F(5,21)=13.15; p<.001). Animals were most often the easiest category to understand. The possibility of a simple explanation in terms of word frequency and/or visual complexity was ruled out. Evidence from the present study support the position that so called “global” aphasia is an imprecise term and should be redefined. These results are discussed within the connectionist and modular perspectives on category-specific deficits in aphasia.