After suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI), people often experience linguistic impairments – even when language-processing areas of the brain are not damaged. Specifically, those with TBI may have difficulty organizing narrative stories, using complex grammar, and understanding non-literal meaning. Recent research has aimed to discover if these difficulties are related to other cognitive impairments related to TBI.
A recent Italian study investigated the relationship among TBI severity, cognitive impairment, and linguistic deficits. Researchers assessed sixty TBI patients, analyzing the severity of their injuries, their cognitive abilities, and their capacity to engage in narrative discourse (e.g. process and produce complex language). They found that cognitive and linguistic impairment increased when injury severity increased, but that some cognitive and linguistic factors were independent of TBI severity. Furthermore, non-linguistic cognitive deficits were associated with linguistic impairment, suggesting that TBI effects on cognition can negatively impact language function even when language-processing structures are unaffected.
For those who experience TBI, impaired cognition and language skills can have a negative impact on ability to function socially, vocationally, and emotionally. To best aid these people and ensure best quality of life, researchers and clinicians need to understand the complex relationship between cognitive function and linguistic abilities.
Marini A, Zettin M, Bencich E, et al. Severity effects on discourse production after TBI. Journal of Neurolinguistics. (March 2017).