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J Commun Disord. 2003 May-Jun;36(3):209-19.

Effects of working memory deficits on the communicative functioning of Alzheimer's dementia patients.

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Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, The University of Arizona, P.O. Box 210071, Tucson, AZ 85721-0071, USA.


Individuals with Alzheimer's disease experience frontal lobe pathology and deficits in working memory processes are well documented. Less documented is how various working memory deficits impact communicative functioning. The performance data of individuals with mild and moderate Alzheimer's dementia on five tests of language comprehension and four tests of language expression are presented and discussed in the context of possible contributions from impaired working memory functions. The argument is advanced that diminished scores on tests of language comprehension and production result primarily from attenuated span capacity, difficulty focusing attention, encoding, and activation of long-term knowledge rather than from loss of linguistic knowledge. Techniques that may advantage Alzheimer's patients in the comprehension and expression of linguistic information are discussed.(1) Readers will become familiar with the typical functioning of individuals with Alzheimer's disease on common linguistic expression and comprehension tasks. (2) Readers will become familiar with the distinction between language knowledge and performance and its importance in understanding the cause of communication breakdowns in individuals with Alzheimer's disease. (3) Readers will become familiar with techniques that may facilitate the communicative functioning of individuals with Alzheimer's disease.

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