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Auditory comprehension and aging: Decline in syntactic processing

  • Loraine K. Obler (a1), Deborah Fein (a2), Marjorie Nicholas (a2) and Martin L. Albert (a2)

Abstract

Comprehension of six syntactic structures was tested across four age groups. Each structure was presented with both plausible and implausible content. The contribution of cognitive nonlinguistic factors important for comprehension (attention, short-term memory, and mental control) was tested via standard neuropsychological tasks. Sixty-six women aged 30–79 were tested. Both errors and reaction times increased with age, especially for more complex syntactic types and implausible sentences. The neuropsychological factors tested contributed minimally to an age-related decline in comprehension, suggesting that the subtle breakdown seen in syntactic processing may be a language-specific impairment.

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Corresponding author

Loraine K. Obler, The Graduate School & University Center of CUNY, PhD Program in Speech & Hearing Sciences, 33 West 42nd Street, Box 365, New York, NY 10036-8099

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