Electrophysiological responses to argument structure violations in healthy adults and individuals with agrammatic aphasia

Aneta Kielar, Aya Meltzer-Asscher, Cynthia K. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Sentence comprehension requires processing of argument structure information associated with verbs, i.e. the number and type of arguments that they select. Many individuals with agrammatic aphasia show impaired production of verbs with greater argument structure density. The extent to which these participants also show argument structure deficits during comprehension, however, is unclear. Some studies find normal access to verb arguments, whereas others report impaired ability. The present study investigated verb argument structure processing in agrammatic aphasia by examining event-related potentials associated with argument structure violations in healthy young and older adults as well as aphasic individuals. A semantic violation condition was included to investigate possible differences in sensitivity to semantic and argument structure information during sentence processing. Results for the healthy control participants showed a negativity followed by a positive shift (N400-P600) in the argument structure violation condition, as found in previous ERP studies (Friederici & Frisch, 2000; Frisch, Hahne, & Friederici, 2004). In contrast, individuals with agrammatic aphasia showed a P600, but no N400, response to argument structure mismatches. Additionally, compared to the control groups, the agrammatic participants showed an attenuated, but relatively preserved, N400 response to semantic violations. These data show that agrammatic individuals do not demonstrate normal real-time sensitivity to verb argument structure requirements during sentence processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3320-3337
Number of pages18
Issue number14
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • Agrammatic aphasia
  • Event related potentials
  • Language-related brain potentials
  • N400
  • P600
  • Semantic processing
  • Verb argument structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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