Comprehension of co-speech gestures in aphasic patients: An eye movement study

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Abstract

© 2016 Eggenberger et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Background: Co-speech gestures are omnipresent and a crucial element of human interaction by facilitating language comprehension. However, it is unclear whether gestures also support language comprehension in aphasic patients. Using visual exploration behavior analysis, the present study aimed to investigate the influence of congruence between speech and cospeech gestures on comprehension in terms of accuracy in a decision task. Method: Twenty aphasic patients and 30 healthy controls watched videos in which speech was either combined with meaningless (baseline condition), congruent, or incongruent gestures. Comprehension was assessed with a decision task, while remote eye-tracking allowed analysis of visual exploration. Results: In aphasic patients, the incongruent condition resulted in a significant decrease of accuracy, while the congruent condition led to a significant increase in accuracy compared to baseline accuracy. In the control group, the incongruent condition resulted in a decrease in accuracy, while the congruent condition did not significantly increase the accuracy. Visual exploration analysis showed that patients fixated significantly less on the face and tended to fixate more on the gesturing hands compared to controls. Conclusion: Co-speech gestures play an important role for aphasic patients as they modulate comprehension. Incongruent gestures evoke significant interference and deteriorate patients' comprehension. In contrast, congruent gestures enhance comprehension in aphasic patients, which might be valuable for clinical and therapeutic purposes.

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Eggenberger, N., Preisig, B. C., Schumacher, R., Hopfner, S., Vanbellingen, T., Nyffeler, T., … Müri, R. M. (2016). Comprehension of co-speech gestures in aphasic patients: An eye movement study. PLoS ONE, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0146583

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