Semantic feature analysis is designed to improve word retrieval in patients with aphasia by accessing semantic networks. This is done via spoken production of a target prompted through a picture stimulus alongside structured elicitation of a series of semantic features that are associated with the target. This combination of elicitation of a target and its semantic features is designed to strengthen and reactivate the semantic network around the target thereby facilitating word retrieval. By activating the semantic network surrounding the target word, in this case “eyes”, the target itself should be activated above its threshold level thus increasing the likelihood that its name can be retrieved.
In this group session, the patient begins by holding up a picture for the rest of the group to see. The group starts describing the picture using semantic categorical cues which are clues that provide the category or group the missing word belongs to. The patient is then guided in verbalizing the semantic features of the target word with the aid of these cues, using a cueing hierarchy aimed at activating the semantic network surrounding the target word “eyes”:
Group: “It’s a thing.”
Function: “They’re used to see.” “Why do you wear glasses?”
Location: “What’s behind your glasses?”
Properties: “Its alive, a living thing, part of your body.”
Association: “It comes in pairs.”
Cloze technique: “You see with your _____.”
The cloze technique is used at the very end which is a semantic strategy that uses related information, “Not eyebrows but _____” to help determine what the target word is. The patient then says “eyeglasses”. Since the patient was unable to name the picture after all features/cues given one of the group members says the word and instructs the patient to turn the card over and say aloud the word and repeat it while reviewing the features again.
This approach is effective for improving confrontational naming, an area where most patients with aphasia struggle. Confrontational naming is a complex process involving several stages. The first stage is the semantic stage, where semantic representations are activated. The second stage is label retrieval, where the phonological representation corresponding to the semantic representation is retrieved. This is followed by the motor programming stage, where the articulatory sequence is activated eventually leading to the correct word.
Jennifer L. Pastores