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25-09-2012 | Speech-language pathology | Article

Linguistic deficits in people who clutter


Free abstract

medwireNews: Data from a small study highlight some of the linguistic challenges experienced by individuals with a rate-based fluency disorder.

People who clutter appear to have difficulties thinking of items related to a particular location, such as naming items in a school or kitchen.

In addition, they use significantly more maze behaviors than individuals who do not clutter when describing a sequence related to specific tasks.

"The present research lends some support to the concept that people who clutter had a linguistic deficit at a lexical level," state Jessica Bretherton-Furness (Gravesham Community Hospital, Kent, UK) and David Ward (University of Reading, UK) in the Journal of Fluency Disorders.

Cluttering is considered a disorder of fluency, although it was not always differentiated from stuttering. There is no known cause and definitions of the disorder are not fully agreed on.

There does appear to be some agreement, however, that "cluttering is a fluency disorder wherein segments of conversation in the speaker's native language typically are perceived as too fast, too irregular, or both."

With cluttering defined as a rate-based fluency disorder, the researchers wanted to determine if there were potential differences in linguistic processing between individuals who clutter and those who do not.

Eight individuals who cluttered were included in the study, including five men and three women, and six individuals served as healthy controls.

Sections of the Mount Wilga High Level Language Test were used to assess lexical access and maze behavior.

The researchers note that while people who cluttered gave fewer descriptive responses than controls across all the subsections, the findings "present a mixed picture" with respect to significant differences between the groups.

They note that clutter patients did have a more difficult time naming items within a particular location than controls.

Clutter patients also took a more circuitous route when describing sequencing of specific tasks. Some of them became sidetracked in their descriptions.

In addition, storytelling tasks revealed that the related stories provided by the clutter arm were typically shorter and contained less detail than those provided by the controls. Some provided excessive information, some ambiguity, and others used obscure expressions, all findings that suggest "[people who clutter] are poor conversational partners," say the researchers.

Overall, Furness and Ward say that further studies are needed as the small study size makes it difficult to extrapolate the findings to all people who clutter.

On the other hand, say the authors, the fact that significant between group differences were found even with the small group sizes highlights the worthwhile pursuit of further studies.

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By medwireNews Reporters