Executive function comprises several higher order cognitive processes such as planning, organisation, adaptation, maintenance, monitoring and decision making. It is thought that difficulties in cognitive flexibility in people with aphasia are associated with difficulties in executive function rather than the language impairment per se. In fact, higher executive function may be a predictor of better outcomes and maintenance following language therapy in people with aphasia. The aims of this study were to investigate executive function in people with aphasia of left hemisphere CVA origin (n=10), compared to healthy old (n=30) and healthy young (n=30) adults. Participants completed four tasks focusing on switching, inhibition, updating and divided attention. Results demonstrated that older healthy adults presented with more difficulties in executive function than younger healthy adults and people with aphasia presented with more difficulties than both these groups. People with aphasia demonstrated difficulties on all tasks given. The higher the cognitive load, the greater the difference among groups. This study contributes to the increased understanding of the breadth of cognitive difficulties that people with aphasia have, and that need to be considered when planning and delivering interventions both in research and clinical settings. Individuals with less cognitive flexibility may find interventions that force them into a new behaviour more difficult than those that enhance existing behaviours. Thus, working of functional tasks associated with each individual’s current communication strategies are more likely to result in behaviour change.

Performance differences between aphasia and healthy aging on an executive function test battery.
Mohapatra B, Marshall RS.
2019 [Epub ahead of print].
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Anna Volkmer

UCL, London, UK.

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