Hemispheric contributions to lexical ambiguity resolution in a discourse context: Evidence from individuals with unilateral left and right hemisphere lesions

Christopher M. Grindrod, Shari R. Baum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In the present study, a cross-modal semantic priming task was used to investigate the ability of left-hemisphere-damaged (LHD) nonfluent aphasic, right-hemisphere-damaged (RHD) and non-brain-damaged (NBD) control subjects to use a discourse context to resolve lexically ambiguous words. Subjects first heard four-sentence discourse passages ending in ambiguous words and after an inter-stimulus interval (ISI) of either 0 or 750 ms, made lexical decisions on first- or second-meaning related visual targets. NBD control subjects, at the 0 ms ISI, only activated contextually appropriate meanings, though significant effects, as a group, were only seen in second-meaning biased contexts. Surprisingly, at the 750 ms ISI, these subjects activated both appropriate and inappropriate meanings in first-meaning biased contexts. With respect to the LHD nonfluent aphasic patients, the majority activated first meanings regardless of context at the 0 ms ISI, though effects for the group were not significant. At the 750 ms ISI, these patients again activated first meanings regardless of context, with significant effects for the group only seen in first-meaning biased contexts. With regard to the RHD patients, the majority activated second meanings regardless of context at the 0 ms ISI and first meanings regardless of context at the 750 ms ISI, though, as a group, the effects were not significant. In light of our previous findings (Grindrod & Baum, 2003, submitted), the present data are interpreted as supporting the notion that damage to the left hemisphere disrupts either lexical access processes or the time course of lexical activation, whereas damage to the right hemisphere impairs the use of context and leads to activation of ambiguous word meanings based on meaning frequency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-83
Number of pages14
JournalBrain and Cognition
Volume57
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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