Mechanisms underlying treatment-induced language recovery post-stroke
In Canada, one individual suffers a stroke every seven minutes. Of those who survive, roughly 30% will have aphasia, a difficulty speaking with- or understanding others. Aphasia can have a significant negative impact on mood, quality of life and day to day functioning. One of the most frustrating symptoms of aphasia is a difficulty finding the right words for common objects, familiar people and places. For example, if an individual with aphasia wants to say the word “cup”, they may make speech errors that are meaning-based (e.g., “glass”) or sound-based (e.g.,“pup”), or they may be unable to say anything at all. Fortunately, therapy for word-finding difficulty is helpful for many people, but some individuals don’t improve – the reasons for this remain unclear.
The goal of this project is to understand the critical factors that make therapy helpful, so that they can be harnessed to develop more successful therapy methods. The factor of interest in this project is cueing. Individuals will receive therapy for word-finding difficulty under meaning-, and sound-based cueing conditions, which are commonly used in language therapy. For example, for the word “cup”, a meaning-based cue is “you pour coffee in it”, and a sound-based cue is “it rhymes with pup”. These conditions will be compared to a no cueing condition. We will measure changes before and after therapy in the ability to name words and in the types of speech errors being made. The latter will be analyzed using computational modelling tools, which will allow us to identify the language processes being trained by each therapy condition. The findings from this work can be implemented relatively quickly in clinics across Canada to help tailor therapy to the individual needs of stroke survivors, and to ultimately improve their communication and quality of life.
Tijana (Tina) Simic , University of Toronto
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