Discourse Topic Management in Senile Dementia of the Alzheimer's Type The purpose of the study was to provide a detailed evaluation of the topic management abilities of a group of subjects with senile dementia of the Alzheimer’s type (SDAT) and to compare their patterns of topic management to that of a normal elderly (NE) subject group. Twenty-four subjects participated in ... Research Article
Research Article  |   October 01, 1995
Discourse Topic Management in Senile Dementia of the Alzheimer's Type
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Michelle Mentis
    Boston University, Boston, MA
  • Jan Briggs-Whittaker
    E.N.R.M. Veterans Hospital, Bedford, MA
  • Gary D. Gramigna
    Brockton/West Roxbury, DVA Medical Center, West Roxbury, MA
  • Contact author: Michelle Mentis, PhD, Department of Communication Disorders, Boston University, Sargent College of Allied Health Professions, 635 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215.
    Contact author: Michelle Mentis, PhD, Department of Communication Disorders, Boston University, Sargent College of Allied Health Professions, 635 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215.×
Article Information
Special Populations / Older Adults & Aging / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   October 01, 1995
Discourse Topic Management in Senile Dementia of the Alzheimer's Type
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 1995, Vol. 38, 1054-1066. doi:10.1044/jshr.3805.1054
History: Received July 11, 1994 , Accepted March 6, 1995
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 1995, Vol. 38, 1054-1066. doi:10.1044/jshr.3805.1054
History: Received July 11, 1994; Accepted March 6, 1995

The purpose of the study was to provide a detailed evaluation of the topic management abilities of a group of subjects with senile dementia of the Alzheimer’s type (SDAT) and to compare their patterns of topic management to that of a normal elderly (NE) subject group. Twenty-four subjects participated in the study: 12 SDAT subjects and 12 NE subjects matched along the variables of age, sex, and education. The evaluation of topic management was based on a 20-minute casual conversational interaction between the subject and a speech-language pathologist that was videotaped and later transcribed orthographically. Topic management was analyzed in terms of a modified version of the multidimensional topic coherence analysis developed by Mentis and Prutting (1991). The results indicated significant differences between the SDAT and NE subjects along a number of parameters of topic introduction and maintenance. The topic management profiles of the SDAT subjects were characterized by a reduced ability to change topics while preserving the discourse flow, difficulty in actively contributing to the propositional development of the topic, and a failure to consistently maintain topic in a clear and coherent manner. These problems appeared to be related to underlying problems across the discourse-pragmatic, linguistic, and cognitive domains; they highlight the need to more fully explore the interactions among deficits in SDAT and their effects on conversational discourse.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs, ENRM Veterans Hospital, Bedford, MA, and the Brockton/ West Roxbury DVA Medical Center, West Roxbury, MA. The authors would like to thank Michelle Brossoire and Miche Lano for their invaluable help in the transcription of the data. We would also like to thank Holly Craig, Malcolm R. McNeil, Monica S. Hough, and an anonymous reviewer for their extremely insightful and valuable comments on earlier versions of this paper.
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