Short-Term Memory and Aphasia: From Theory to Treatment

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This article reviews existing research on the interactions between verbal short-term memory and language processing impairments in aphasia. Theoretical models of short-term memory are reviewed, starting with a model assuming a separation between short-term memory and language, and progressing to models that view verbal short-term memory as a cognitive requirement of language processing. The review highlights a verbal short-term memory model derived from an interactive activation model of word retrieval. This model holds that verbal short-term memory encompasses the temporary activation of linguistic knowledge (e.g., semantic, lexical, and phonological features) during language production and comprehension tasks. Empirical evidence supporting this model, which views short-term memory in the context of the processes it subserves, is outlined. Studies that use a classic measure of verbal short-term memory (i.e., number of words/digits correctly recalled in immediate serial recall) as well as those that use more intricate measures (e.g., serial position effects in immediate serial recall) are discussed. Treatment research that uses verbal short-term memory tasks in an attempt to improve language processing is then summarized, with a particular focus on word retrieval. A discussion of the limitations of current research and possible future directions concludes the review.

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