Nature of the verbal fluency task in concussed athletes
Background: Verbal fluency is a common test used to assess naming in individuals with brain injury. Troyer (1997) reported that naming components such as phonemic clusters and categorical switching might be more sensitive to the presence of brain injury than a reduction in the total number of words that is commonly used as a measure. Phonemic task refers to the F-A-S naming task while the semantic task refers to the animal naming task because of the frequent production of the phonemic cluster on the F-A-S and semantic clusters on the animal naming task (Troyer, 1997). Purpose: The purpose of this study is to investigate the changes and the nature of post-concussive recovery in terms of the total number of words, mean cluster size, and the number of switches in individuals who experienced a sport-related concussion. Method: The verbal fluency task was administered to concussed and non-concussed individuals. The group of concussed athletes was matched to a control group of individuals with no history of concussion. A group of concussed athletes was tracked from preseason (baseline) to post-concussion testing in order to describe changes and the nature of recovery of the total number of words, mean cluster size, and the number of switches in the phonemic and semantic task. Results: A Mann-Whitney U test between groups showed no difference at baseline testing in the total number of words, mean cluster size, and the number of switches in the phonetic or semantic task. In athletes who sustained a concussion, the Wilcoxon Signed Rank test revealed a significant decrease in mean cluster size in the phonemic task from baseline to post-concussion testing 1. After 7-10 days post-concussion, athletes significantly increased their mean cluster size from post-concussion testing 1. In the semantic task, there was no significant change in the athletes’ performance following their concussion. Conclusion: Mean cluster size scores, in the phonemic task, are a better indicator of post-concussion cognitive deficits compared to the total number of words. Therefore, clinicians can use this score to track individual recovery progress for a safe return-to-play decision.
Mejia, Paulina, "Nature of the verbal fluency task in concussed athletes" (2016). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10118153.