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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The syntactic comprehension deficit observed in Alzheimer's patients using an object manipulation task Garrison, Lisa Rae


In the present study, the syntactic deficit of Alzheimer's patients was investigated, using an object manipulation task. Four case studies were presented, using data from test batteries devised by Caplan (pers. comm.) and the author. Subjects responded by acting out stimulus sentences presented in aural and written modes, using a set of small figurines. Responses were evaluated following criteria described by Caplan (1986, pers. comm.). Data from the four subjects were compared with each other, and with data obtained from a similar battery administered to aphasic patients. An impairment in the ability to interpret certain syntactic structures was found for all subjects, indicating that Alzheimer's patients do suffer from a syntactic comprehension deficit in the early stages of the disease. Several syntactic structures which caused errors in the responses of the Alzheimer's subjects, also caused errors for the aphasic patients, suggesting that the parsing model underlying the design of the stimuli, described by Caplan (in press) is a valid description of normal language function. Results of the present investigation are examined in relation to a model of syntactic comprehension suggested by Caplan (in press). Contradictions to hypotheses proposed are noted. The limitations and diagnostic use of the object manipulation test, are discussed.

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