Emotion and location cues bias conceptual retrieval in people with deficient semantic control

Lucilla Lanzoni*, Hannah Thompson, Danai Beintari, Katrina Berwick, Harriet Demnitz-King, Hannah Raspin, Maria Taha, Sara Stampacchia, Jonathan Smallwood, Elizabeth Jefferies

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Visuo-spatial context and emotional valence are powerful cues to episodic retrieval, but the contribution of these inputs to semantic cognition has not been widely investigated. We examined the impact of visuo-spatial, facial emotion and prosody cues and miscues on the retrieval of dominant and subordinate meanings of ambiguous words. Cue photographs provided relevant visuo-spatial or emotional information, consistent with the interpretation of the ambiguous word being probed, while miscues were consistent with an alternative interpretation. We compared the impact of these cues in healthy controls and semantic aphasia patients with deficient control over semantic retrieval following left-hemisphere stroke. Patients showed greater deficits in retrieving the subordinate meanings of ambiguous words, and stronger effects of cueing and miscuing relative to healthy controls. These findings suggest that contextual cues that guide retrieval to the appropriate semantic information reduce the need to constrain semantic retrieval internally, while miscues that are not aligned with the task increase the need for semantic control. Moreover, both valence and visuo-spatial context can prime particular semantic interpretations, in line with theoretical frameworks that argue meaning is computed through the integration of these features. In semantic aphasia, residual comprehension relies heavily on facial expressions and visuospatial cues. This has important implications for patients, their families and clinicians when developing new or more effective modes of communication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-305
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2019 The Authors.


  • Aphasia
  • Context
  • Cueing
  • Emotion
  • Semantic
  • Spatial
  • Stroke

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