[PS-1.34] The role of procedural memory in the skill for language: Evidence from syntactic priming in patients with amnesia

Heyselaar, E. 1 , Segaert, K. 2, 1 , Walvoort, S. 3 , Kessels, R. 3, 4, 5 & Hagoort, P. 1, 4

1 Neurobiology of Language Department, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
2 School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom
3 Vincent van Gogh Institute for Psychiatry, Centre of Excellence for Korsakoff and Alcohol-Related Cognitive Disorders, Venray, The Netherlands
4 Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
5 Department of Medical Psychology, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Syntactic priming, the phenomenon in which participants adopt the linguistic behaviour of their partner, is widely used in psycholinguistics to investigate syntactic operations. Although the phenomenon of syntactic priming is well documented, the memory system that supports the retention of this syntactic information long enough to influence future utterances, is not as widely investigated. We aim to shed light on this issue by assessing 17 patients with Korsakoff?s amnesia on an active-passive syntactic priming task and compare their performance to controls matched in age, education and premorbid intelligence. Patients with Korsakoff's amnesia display deficits in all subdomains of declarative memory, yet their implicit learning remains intact, making them an ideal patient group to use in this study. In line with the hypothesis that syntactic priming relies on procedural memory, the patient group showed strong priming tendencies (12.6% passive structure repetition). Our control group didn't show a priming tendency, presumably due to cognitive interference between declarative and non-declarative memory systems. To verify the absence of the effect in the controls, we ran an independent group of 54 participants on the same paradigm that also showed no priming effect. The results are further discussed in relation to amnesia, aging and compensatory mechanisms.