Abstract

This article presents electrophysiological data on on-line syntactic processing during auditory sentence comprehension in patients with Broca's aphasia. Event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were recorded from the scalp while subjects listened to sentences that were either syntactically correct or contained violations of subject-verb agreement. Three groups of subjects were tested: Broca patients (n = 10), nonaphasic patients with a right-hemisphere (RH) lesion (n = 5), and healthy agedmatched controls (n = 12). The healthy, control subjects showed a P600/SPS effect as response to the agreement violations. The nonaphasic patients with an RH lesion showed essentially the same pattern. The overall group of Broca patients did not show this sensitivity. However, the sensitivity was modulated by the severity of the syntactic comprehension impairment. The largest deviation from the standard P600/SPS effect was found in the patients with the relatively more severe syntactic comprehension impairment. In addition, ERPs to tones in a classical tone oddball paradigm were also recorded. Similar to the normal control subjects and RH patients, the group of Broca patients showed a P300 effect in the tone oddball condition. This indicates that aphasia in itself does not lead to a general reduction in all cognitive ERP effects. It was concluded that deviations from the standard P600/SPS effect in the Broca patients reflected difficulties with on-line maintaining of number information across clausal boundaries for establishing subject-verb agreement.

This content is only available as a PDF.