Language comprehension in healthy ageing and mild cognitive impairment

Poulisse, Charlotte Fleur Marjolein (2020). Language comprehension in healthy ageing and mild cognitive impairment. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Despite structural decline in language relevant brain regions, language comprehension appears to be relatively preserved with age. This raises the question: “How does the ageing brain maintain the cognitive system?” In this context, this thesis investigates the behavioural and functional underpinnings of sentence comprehension in healthy ageing and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). Using a minimal phrase paradigm designed to focus on the process of syntactic binding, Chapter 1 reports a behavioural experiment demonstrating age-related decline in syntactic comprehension that increases in the absence of semantic-contextual information. Extending on these findings, Chapter 2 reports an electroencephalography (EEG) experiment on the oscillatory mechanisms involved in syntactic processing in older adults, which gives evidence for qualitative differences in the neural signature associated with syntactic binding in older compared to younger adults. Chapter 3 reports an EEG experiment on oscillatory activity associated with lexical retrieval and semantic processing in MCI. The results indicate subtle, yet clear alterations in the neural signatures associated with these processes in individuals with MCI relative to healthy controls. Collectively, the studies reported in this thesis add to our understanding of the robustness and changeability of the language comprehension system in the face of the wide array of changes that occur with ageing, further constraining neurocognitive theories on this subject.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Life & Environmental Sciences
School or Department: School of Psychology
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology


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