Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society



Sex differences in clustering and switching in verbal fluency tasks


ELISABETH M.  WEISS  a1 c1 , J. DANIEL  RAGLAND  a2 , COLLEEN M.  BRENSINGER  a3 , WARREN B.  BILKER  a3 , EBERHARD A.  DEISENHAMMER  a1 and MARGARETE  DELAZER  a4
a1 Department of General Psychiatry, Innsbruck Medical University, Innsbruck, Austria
a2 Department of Psychiatry, Brain Behavior Laboratory, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
a3 Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
a4 Department of Neurology, Innsbruck Medical University, Innsbruck, Austria

Article author query
weiss em   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
ragland jd   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
brensinger cm   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
bilker wb   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
deisenhammer ea   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
delazer m   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 

Abstract

Sex differences in executive speech tasks, favoring women, have been noted in behavioral studies and functional imaging studies. In the present study, the clustering and switching components of semantic and phonemic verbal fluency tests were examined in 40 healthy men and 40 healthy women. Possible sex differences in the influence of cognitive factors such as speed of information processing, word knowledge, and/or verbal long-term memory on these verbal fluency factors were also assessed. The results showed that women switched more often between categories in the phonemic fluency test, whereas men showed a trend toward a larger cluster size leading to a smaller total number of words generated. Additionally, higher performance on the Digit Symbol test was associated with better performance on the semantic and phonemic verbal fluency test in men, whereas in women, better memory performance was associated with better performance on these verbal fluency tests. Our data indicate that men and women are using different processing strategies for phonemic verbal fluency tests to optimize verbal fluency task performance. In the current study, women adopted a more successful strategy of balancing clustering and switching in the phonemic fluency task. (JINS, 2006, 12, 502–509.)

(Received January 3 2006)
(Revised March 10 2006)
(Accepted March 13 2006)


Key Words: Word generation; Language; Semantic fluency; Phonemic fluency; Gender differences; Neuropsychological.

Correspondence:
c1 Correspondence and reprint requests to: Elisabeth Weiss, M.D., Department of General Psychiatry, Innsbruck Medical University, Anichstrasse 35, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria. E-mail: elisabeth.weiss@uibk.ac.at