Teaching the Brain to Speak Again: New Frontiers in Trauma and Stroke Recovery

Brain Function and Plasticity
Saturday, February 16, 2013: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Room 304 (Hynes Convention Center)

Loss of language ability (aphasia) after stroke or trauma is devastating. Recovery has been thought to be limited by loss of plasticity in adult brains; chronic impairment is common. This panel addresses new frontiers in the functional restoration of communication skills in people with aphasia and biomarkers of recovery. The first speaker describes new therapies to facilitate language in people with aphasia by using speech entrainment to an audiovisual model. Practice with this “app” increases spontaneous speech, even in chronic, severely impaired patients. Critically, improvement generalizes and is reflected in changes in brain activity, showing plasticity potential in the adult brain. Next, we will explore how new eye-tracking techniques can discern subtle problems that underlie language deficits in acquired aphasia. Newer therapies targeting more linguistically complex structures first, not by scaffolding from simpler treatment goals (a more traditional method), result in improved outcomes. The speaker will describe the complex neurological network that supports grammar in healthy adults and how to isolate biomarkers of recovery after language loss. The final speaker will explore how therapy that embeds language targets in melody -- and alters the timing of input models to maximize sound contrasts that are often lost in the speech of adults recovering from aphasia -- can improve language outcomes. Together, the symposium panel will demonstrate new ways to teach the damaged brain to use language again.

Nan Ratner, University of Maryland
Margaret Rogers, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Julius Fridriksson, University of South Carolina
Real-Time Audiovisual Feedback Enables Stroke Patients to Reacquire Speech
Cynthia Thompson, Northwestern University
Neurocognitive Mechanisms of Syntactic Recovery in Agrammatism
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