The dual origin of semantic errors in access deficit: activation vs. inhibition deficit

Nazbanou Nozari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


According to most models of language production, to name a picture one must first map semantic features onto lexical items. Even if both sets of representations are intact, problems in mapping semantic to lexical representations can impair production. Individuals with this problem, sometimes referred to as “access deficit”, often demonstrate evidence of preserved semantic knowledge (e.g., good comprehension), increased rate of lexical (usually semantic) errors in production, and inconsistent accuracy on naming the same picture on different occasions. In this paper, I argue that access deficit can have two distinct etiologies. I will present a case of double dissociation between two individuals with chronic post-stroke aphasia, one of whom shows a profile compatible with impaired activation of the target lexical item from semantic features (activation deficit), while the other shows a profile compatible with impaired inhibition of competing lexical items (inhibition deficit). These results have three key implications: (a) they provide support for the theoretical separation between activation and selection processes in computational models of word production, (b) they point to the critical role of inhibitory control in lexical selection, and (c) they invite a closer inspection of the origin of semantic errors in individuals with access deficit in order to choose the best treatment option.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCognitive neuropsychology
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • access deficit
  • aphasia
  • inhibitory control
  • Lexical selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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