Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society

Research Articles

Changes in Naming and Semantic Abilities With Aging From 50 to 90 years

Clémence Verhaegena1 c1 and Martine Ponceleta1

a1 Department of Psychology: Cognition and Behavior, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium

Abstract

The aim of this study was to determine whether naming difficulties arise in individuals as young as their 50s. Participants of 25–35, 50–59, 60–69, and above 70 years of age were given a picture naming task. To uncover subtle naming difficulties, latencies were analyzed in addition to accuracy. To control whether the expected slower naming latencies could be due to a general slowing affecting all cognitive tasks, participants were also given an odd/even judgment task to assess cognitive processing speed. The results confirmed that participants in their 50s presented decline in naming performance, reflected by an increase in naming latencies, whereas adults in their 60s and their 70s showed both a decrease in accuracy and an increase in latency. Moreover, the increase in naming latencies remained significant even after controlling for odd/even judgment latencies, suggesting a degradation specific to the picture naming task. We assumed that these slower latencies may result from a language-specific impairment. As a further test for language-specific degradation, participants’ semantic capacities were also assessed with a synonym judgment task and the Pyramids and Palm Trees test. The above-70 group showed semantic degradation. The contributions of multiple factors to naming difficulties in aging are discussed. (JINS, 2013, 19, 1–8)

(Received December 23 2011)

(Revised July 23 2012)

(Accepted July 27 2012)

(Online publication December 14 2012)

Keywords

  • Aging;
  • Word naming difficulties;
  • Picture naming;
  • Semantic;
  • Naming latencies;
  • Age of onset

Correspondence:

c1 Correspondence and reprint requests to: Clémence Verhaegen, University of Liège, Department of Psychology: Cognition and Behavior, B33 Boulevard du Rectorat, 4000 Liège, Belgium. E-mail: clemence.verhaegen@ulg.ac.be