Research Reports - Cognitive task demands and discourse performance after traumatic brain injury

Int J Lang Commun Disord. 2016 Nov 27. doi: 10.1111/1460-6984.12289. [Epub ahead
of print]

Byom L(1,)(2), Turkstra LS(1).

BACKGROUND: Social communication problems are common in adults with traumatic
brain injury (TBI), particularly problems in spoken discourse. Social
communication problems are thought to reflect underlying cognitive impairments.
AIMS: To measure the contribution of two cognitive processes, executive
functioning (EF) and theory of mind (ToM), to the communication of adults with
TBI, and to investigate the relationships between discourse performance and
potential communication partners' perceptions.
METHODS & PROCEDURES: Twenty-one adults with moderate-to-severe TBI and 23
uninjured adults completed a discourse task in which EF and ToM demands were
manipulated across three conditions: baseline, high-EF and high-ToM. Dependent
variables were fluency (for EFs), number of mental state terms (MSTs; for ToM)
and speech rate. Discourse from high-EF/ToM conditions was judged by naïve raters
for social acceptability.
OUTCOMES & RESULTS: The TBI group produced significantly fewer MSTs than the
comparison group across conditions and also spoke at a slower rate, and there
were significant effects of condition on both measures (MST: high-EF < baseline =
high-ToM; speech rate: high-EF < high-ToM < baseline). There were no significant
between-groups differences in fluency or interaction of fluency with condition.
MST use and fluency were associated with social acceptability ratings.
CONCLUSIONS & IMPLICATIONS: Results added further evidence of social
communication problems in adults with TBI and demonstrated that discourse
behaviours may negatively affect how a speaker is perceived. Results also
indicated that task manipulations can affect discourse performance, suggesting
that general cognitive demands may influence social communication after TBI. 

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