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Naming is our ability to refer to an object, person, place, concept, or idea by its proper name. To name an object, you need access to your internal dictionary, find the specific word that you're looking for, and say it outloud. This is done is three systems.
- Phase 1 (the semantic system): Recovering information about the object that you want to name. For example, if you see an old classmate on the street, you identify that he was a classmate, that he was in your x class, and that he was friends with John, Tim, and Bill.
- Phase 2 (phonological lexical system): Recovering the best word for the object or idea. Using the same example, your old classmate's name was Jeff, which would make it the most appropriate name to call him. This is the key process in Naming.
- Phase 3 (phoneme storage): Recovering each of the phonemes that make up the chosen word. For example, Jeff would be "/j/, /e/, /f/".
These three phases are independent, which means that one of them can be altered without affecting the others. As such, the ability to remember a specific word is unrelated to the information that you have about the object that you want to name.
You might see your old classmate on the street and remember how you know him, describe what class you had together, and remember his friends, but not be able to remember his name off the top of your head. This is what happens when we have something on the "tip of your tongue".
Your internal dictionary is a series of neurally activated patterns that use different parts of the brain. It grows and builds as you learn and identify new objects and store them in your internal dictionary. Once you do this, you can enter the "dictionary" as soon you see or think about an object. When naming an something, there are a number of different characteristics that influence your ability to easily name the desired object, like the familiarity or amount of experience that you have with the object, person, place, or concept, or the frequency with which you're exposed to it.
Examples of Naming
- You're talking to a friend about another friend's birthday party. The moment you say who's birthday party it is (It's Johnny's birthday), you're using Naming.
- When you're taking a test and you're asked where the Eiffel Tower is located, you enter your internal dictionary and respond with the city's name (The Eiffel Tower is in Paris).
- If you're doing a crossword puzzle and you're asked "Feeling of pain, tenderness, and empathy when someone else is sad", you are using Naming when giving the feeling the name ("Compassion").
- When a child sees a dog and says "woof", they are rudimentarily Naming the object with the sound it makes.
- If firefighters were putting out a fire and one said "go turn off the gas line in the basement behind the green painting", his or her Naming ability would determine how quickly they would be able to put out the fire. Naming is a function that we are constantly using in our day-to-day lives.
Disorders associated with poor Naming
One of the most well known Naming disorders is anomic aphasia. This disorder is characterized by the inability to name objects, places, or concepts, while maintaining the other language components. Someone with anomic aphasia will suffer from the feeling of having something on the "tip of your tongue" when naming even the most common words. In these cases, the person is unable to access their internal dictionary, which makes finding the precise word their looking for extremely difficult.
People with anomic aphasia are able to understand and produce language (aside from the names they don't remember), and remember facts and context about the words they try to reproduce. If someone else says the word they are trying to remember, the person with aphasia is able to recognize that it is the word they are looking for but forget it again soon after repeating it. It is also characteristic of people with this disorder to "talk in circles" to avoid the word they cannot remember. They will use general words, like "the thing" instead of "lightbulb", and will use filler words like "you know", "so", "um", and will pause often when trying to think of the most appropriate word.
Depending on where the damage is located in the brain, the person may have difficulty with proper names (temporal lobe), common nouns (inferior temporal cortex), verbs (Broca's area), or in varying combinations of these areas.
There are also other disorders where Naming is affects, like with Alzheimer's Disorder, Specific Language Impairment, or semantic dementia.
While semantic dementia can affect Naming, it's important not to confuse the two. In the case semantic dementia, the problem is not with lack of access to the memory stored, but with memory itself. This is why the person isn't able to provide any kind of information, even very general ideas, about the word that they are trying to say.
Dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) may also affect Naming when it comes to how easily or quickly the person is able to remember and say a word.
How can you measure and assess Naming?
Naming is a critical aspect of communicating and learning, and is the key to language comprehension. Whenever you want to refer to anything, you must use your Naming ability.
With a complete neuropsychological evaluation, you can easily evaluate and assess a wide range of cognitive domains, among which Naming is included. To evaluate Naming specifically, the assessment uses various classic tests, like the NEPSY task from Korkman, Kirk, and Kemp (1998). These tasks will not only help to measure Naming, but also visual perception, response time, contextual memory, and cognitive flexibility.
- Decoding Test VIPER-NAM: Images will appear on the screen for a short period of time and then disappear. The next screen will show four letters, and the user must choose the first letter of the images shown as quickly as possible.
- Identification Test COM-NAM: Objects will be presented briefly either as an image or sound (word). Next, the user must choose whether the object was shown as a picture, presented as a spoken word, or if it was not previously presented.
- Inquiry Test REST-COM: Objects will appear for a short period of time. The user will have to choose the word that best describes the object as quickly as possible
How can you improve or rehabilitate Naming?
Each cognitive domain, including Naming, can be learned, trained, and improved. CogniFit makes it possible to do this with a professional tool.
CogniFit offers a battery of clinical exercises designed to help with the rehabilitation of Naming and other cognitive domains. The ability to improve Naming is possible due to brain plasticity. The brain and its neural connections can be strengthened by using certain brain functions, like accessing your internal dictionary to find the name of the word that you're thinking of.
This cognitive stimulation program from CogniFit was created by a team of professionals specialized in the area of neuroplasticity and neurogenesis processes. This program starts with a precise cognitive evaluation of Naming and other fundamental cognitive functions, and creates a cognitive stimulation training program based off of the results of the initial assessment.
Improving Naming and other cognitive domains takes time and requires consistent training, and CogniFit has assessment and rehabilitation tools to help improve Naming. It only takes 15 minutes a day, two to three times a week to get the proper cognitive stimulation.
You can get access to the cognitive stimulation program from CogniFit online. There are a number of interactive activities and games that can be played online or on iPhone/tablet. After each session, CogniFit will provide a detailed graphic with the user's cognitive progress.