This article reviews theories of how verbal short term memory (STM) interacts with other language functions and thus how semantics or phonology of target items can influence what individuals remember. The authors describe examples from the research literature that have examined the influence of this relationship in people with aphasia following stroke. They found that impairment of STM is incredibly widespread in people with aphasia. Where their language impairment affected access to semantics, people were better able to recall recent words in a word list (as they were phonetically stronger) while those who have impairments of phonological construction are better able to recall initial words presented in a word list (as they are semantically stronger and these words achieve deeper lexical access). People who use their semantics to support their STM are also more likely to demonstrate difficulties recalling words relating to abstract concepts compared to concrete concepts on a word recall task. The authors discuss research into the effect on language of therapy tasks targeting STM, which found that targeting STM in individuals with aphasia can lead to improvements in both STM and naming. The authors reflect on the value of these findings in guiding decisions on appropriate interventions in clinical practice. STM is often considered the domain of the neuropsychologist or occupational therapist in clinical settings. This theory of STM as intrinsically interlinked with language access highlights that SLTs need to better understand and consider this area as a key domain for assessment and intervention in daily clinical practice with people with aphasia.

Short-term memory and aphasia: from theory to treatment.
Minkina I, Rosenberg S, Kalinyak-Fisher M, Martin, N.


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Anna Volkmer

UCL, London, UK.

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