Phonological grouping is specifically affected in cerebellar patients: a verbal fluency study
- aDepartment of Psychology, University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Via dei Marsi 78, 00185 Rome, Italy, bIRCCS S Lucia, Rome, Italy, cInstitute of Neurology, Catholic University, Rome, Italy
- Dr Maria G Leggio
- Received 23 September 1999
- Revised 9 February 2000
- Accepted 24 February 2000
OBJECTIVES Recent clinical and functional neuroimaging evidence points towards a cerebellar role in verbal production. At present it is not clear how the cerebellum participates in language production. The aim was to investigate the influence of cerebellar lesions on verbal fluency abilities with specific focus on the verbal searching strategies employed by patients with cerebellar damage.
METHODS Twenty five patients with focal or degenerative cerebellar disease and 14 control subjects were tested in a timed verbal fluency task requiring word production under forced (phonemic or semantic) conditions. To analyse the verbal searching strategy employed, semantic and phonemic cluster analyses were also performed.
RESULTS Performances of cerebellar patients were comparable with those of controls in the semantic task; conversely their performances were significantly impaired when tested in the letter task. Cluster analysis results showed that the verbal fluency impairment is linked to specific damage of phonemically related retrieval strategies.
CONCLUSION Cerebellar damage impairs verbal fluency by specifically affecting phonemic rule performances while sparing semantic rule ones. These findings underline the importance of the cerebellar computing properties in strategy development in the linguistic domain.