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Neuropsychologia. 2007 Jun 18;45(11):2447-60. Epub 2007 Apr 5.

Speeded processing of grammar and tool knowledge in Tourette's syndrome.

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1
Brain and Language Lab, Department of Neuroscience, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20057-1464, USA.

Abstract

Tourette's syndrome (TS) is a developmental disorder characterized by motor and verbal tics. The tics, which are fast and involuntary, result from frontal/basal-ganglia abnormalities that lead to unsuppressed behaviors. Language has not been carefully examined in TS. We tested the processing of two basic aspects of language: idiosyncratic and rule-governed linguistic knowledge. Evidence suggests that idiosyncratic knowledge (e.g., in irregular past tense formation; bring-brought) is stored in a mental lexicon that depends on the temporal-lobe-based declarative memory system that also underlies conceptual knowledge. In contrast, evidence suggests that rule-governed combination (e.g., in regular past tenses; walk+-ed) takes place in a mental grammar that relies on the frontal/basal-ganglia-based procedural memory system, which also underlies motor skills such as how to use a hammer. We found that TS children were significantly faster than typically developing control children in producing rule-governed past tenses (slip-slipped, plim-plimmed, bring-bringed) but not irregular and other unpredictable past tenses (bring-brought, splim-splam). They were also faster than controls in naming pictures of manipulated (hammer) but not non-manipulated (elephant) items. These data were not explained by a wide range of potentially confounding subject- and item-level factors. The results suggest that the processing of procedurally based knowledge, both of grammar and of manipulated objects, is particularly speeded in TS. The frontal/basal-ganglia abnormalities may thus lead not only to tics, but also to a wider range of rapid behaviors, including the cognitive processing of rule-governed forms in language and other types of procedural knowledge.

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