Verbal Working Memory and Discourse Comprehension in Older Adults
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This study addresses the following question: How do different types of linguistic working memory relate to discourse comprehension among older adults? Community-dwelling participants (n = 34, mean age = 67.5 years) completed two assessments: first, a computerized visual working memory task adapted from Wright et al. (2007) that measures phonological, semantic, and syntactic subprocesses; and second, the Discourse Comprehension Test (DCT, Brookshire & Nicholas, 1993). We found correlations between phonological and syntactic working memory and total score of the DCT (rsτ = .331 - .343, p < .01); working memory’s role in auditory rehearsal and sequencing may contribute to its relationship with discourse comprehension. There was no significant relationship between semantic working memory and DCT score; single word semantic processing as measured by this task may not be involved in understanding longer passages. Future research can extend this project to individuals with aphasia to understand these relationships in clinical populations.