Background: Despite the clinical importance of assessing the efficiency and accuracy of fluency in terms of content words production during connected speech, assessments based on discourse tasks are very time-consuming and thus not clinically feasible.
Aims (1) Examine the relationship between single-word naming and word retrieval during discourse production. (2) Investigate the relationship between word retrieval and content word fluency derived from a simple versus naturalistic discourse tasks. (3) Develop and validate an efficient and accurate index of content word fluency that is clinically viable.
Methods: Two discourse tasks (simple picture description and naturalistic storytelling narrative) were collected from 46 participants with post-stroke aphasia, and 20 age/education matched neuro-typical controls. Each discourse sample was fully transcribed and quantitative analysis was applied to each sample to measure word retrieval and content word fluency. Three single-word naming tasks were also administered to each participant with aphasia.
Results: Correlational analyses between single-word naming and word retrieval in connected speech revealed weak/moderate relationships. Conversely, strong correlations were found between measures derived from simple picture description against naturalistic storytelling discourse tasks. Moreover, we derived a novel, transcription-less index of content word fluency from the discourse samples of an independent group (neuro-typical controls), and then we validated this index across two discourse tasks in the tested group (persons with aphasia). Correlation and regression analyses revealed extremely strong relationships between participants’ (neuro-typical controls and persons with aphasia) scores on the novel index and measures of content word fluency derived from the formal transcription and quantitative analyses of discourse samples, indicating high accuracy and validity of the new index.
Conclusions: Simple picture description rather than picture naming provides a better estimate of word retrieval in naturalistic connected speech. The novel developed index is transcription-less and can be implemented online to provide an accurate and efficient measure of content word fluency. Thus, it is viable during clinical practice for assessment purposes, and possibly as an outcome measure to monitor therapy effectiveness, which can also be used in randomised clinical trials.