The use of gesture following traumatic brain injury: a preliminary analysis

Min Jung Kim, Julie A.G. Stierwalt, Leonard L. LaPointe, Michelle S. Bourgeois

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Gesture and its effects on speech production has been a topic of interest, especially in studies of individuals with language impairment. Research on word retrieval in participants with aphasia has demonstrated increased gesture or coverbal movement during confrontation naming tasks or spontaneous conversation. Although word retrieval difficulties are also prevalent following traumatic brain injury (TBI), comparatively little research has been published with regard to gesture in the population with TBI. Aims: The current study aimed to investigate the nature and pattern of gestures in individuals with TBI and to compare these to gestures produced by healthy adults. Methods & Procedures: Gestural performance of 30 participants with TBI was analysed in comparison with 32 controls with no history of brain injury during the Test of Adolescent/Adult Word Finding (TAWF). The groups were compared on the frequency, type or pattern, and handedness of gesture. Outcomes & Results: Individuals with TBI produced gestures and coverbal movements (auxiliary or extra movements unrelated to speech) approximately three times more frequently than the control participants on the TAWF. Both the groups employed iconic gesture most frequently, and pointing was frequently demonstrated by individuals with TBI, but not utilised by healthy adults. Finally, a significant difference in hand preference for gesture was revealed. While the control group demonstrated a right hand preference, there was no clear hand preference in the group with TBI. Conclusions: Individuals with TBI demonstrated significantly greater gestural usage compared to healthy adults. The current data offer preliminary patterns of gestural use following TBI. However, the role of facilitation remains unclear. It is possible that gestures facilitate word retrieval, or perhaps they are employed to resolve a word retrieval block.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)665-684
Number of pages20
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 3 2015


  • TBI
  • coverbal movement
  • gesture
  • word retrieval

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • LPN and LVN


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