Proverb comprehension in individuals with agenesis of the corpus callosum

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Abstract

Comprehension of non-literal language involves multiple neural systems likely involving callosal connections. We describe proverb comprehension impairments in individuals with isolated agenesis of the corpus callosum (AgCC) and normal-range general intelligence. Experiment 1 compared Gorham Proverb Test (Gorham, 1956) performance in 19 adults with AgCC and 33 neurotypical control participants of similar age, sex, and intelligence. Experiment 2 used the Proverbs subtest of the Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS, 2001) to compare 19 adults with AgCC and 17 control participants with similar age, sex, and intelligence. Gorham Proverbs performance was impaired in the AgCC group for both the free-response and multiple-choice tasks. On the D-KEFS proverbs test, the AgCC group performed significantly worse on the free-response task (and all derivative scores) despite normal levels of performance on the multiple-choice task. Covarying verbal intelligence did not alter these outcomes. However, covarying a measure of non-literal language comprehension considerably reduced group differences in proverb comprehension on the Gorham test, but had little effect on the D-KEFS group differences. The difference between groups seemed to be greatest when participants had to generate their own interpretation (free response), or in the multiple choice format when the test included many proverbs that were likely to be less familiar. Taken together, the results of this study clearly show that proverb comprehension is diminished in individuals with AgCC compared to their peers.

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