ARRA Investments in Aphasia
Public Health Burden
Aphasia is a disorder that results from damage to portions of the brain that are responsible for language. For most people, these are areas on the left side (hemisphere) of the brain. Aphasia usually occurs suddenly, often as the result of a stroke or head injury, but it may also develop slowly, as in the case of a brain tumor, an infection, or dementia. The disorder impairs the expression and understanding of language as well as reading and writing. According to the National Aphasia Association, approximately 80,000 individuals acquire aphasia each year from strokes. About one million people in the United States currently have aphasia.
Aphasia therapy aims to improve a person’s ability to communicate by helping him or her to use remaining language abilities, restores language abilities as much as possible, compensate for language problems, and learn other methods of communicating. Treatment can involve individual or group therapy with a language therapist to help the individual regain language ability. Other treatment approaches involve the use of computers to improve the language abilities of people with aphasia. A variety of ARRA funded grants are exploring treatments for aphasia. A few are included below.
A research project will determine the degree to which standard versus advanced types of brain imaging technology can be used to predict treatment outcomes for individuals being treated for aphasia. ARRA funds will permit the hiring of two new research team members to this project.
Scientists are using a treatment method for individuals with aphasia that targets the processes by which semantics and phonological representations of single and multiple words are activated and maintained in short-term memory. Additional research funds will allow for extension of the current project and developing a Spanish version of the treatment battery.
This project involves a multidisciplinary team of scientists to study primary progressive aphasia (PPA), which commonly appears initially as a disorder of speaking, progressing to nearly total inability to speak in its most severe stage, while comprehension remains relatively preserved. Additional funds will permit the hiring of a dedicated webmaster to establish a national web-base registry for individuals with PPA.
Scientists are working to identify more effective methods of speech therapy to assist individuals who are recovering from stroke and aphasia to maximize their ability to express ideas and basic needs during daily life activities.
Research is being conducted to determine the role of extended language treatment in long-term success of language therapy and the use of brain imaging technology to predict long-term language maintenance in individuals with aphasia. Supplemental funds will be used to hire additional scientific staff and retain the services of a speech-language pathologist.
A novel treatment approach is being developed for individuals who experienced damage in the right hemisphere of the brain who have difficulty bringing to mind less-central aspects of meaning in language.
Scientists are attempting to understand the parts of the language process that contribute to sentence comprehension and production and how these parts may break down in aphasia. In this way, it may be possible to pinpoint where the breakdown occurs and help in the development of more focused treatment programs. NIH ARRA funds are used to study the basic biology of the brain that is involved with language development.
Scientists are developing computational models to advance the understanding of how damage to specific brain regions disrupts the stages and processes of word retrieval and the regulation of word selection in individuals with acquired aphasia. Additional research funds will allow the purchase of equipment for a workstation dedicated to brain image processing and analysis.
Individuals with conduction aphasia are unable to repeat words, sentences, and phrases. Their speech is fairly unbroken, although they may frequently correct themselves and they may skip or repeat words. Since conduction aphasia is extremely resistant to behavioral therapy, scientists need to further understand the neural basis for this disorder. Additional funds will support two new scientists who will aid in developing a new, computerized treatment program.
Research is being conducted to study cognitive organization of word processing, verbal short-term memory and word learning in individuals with aphasia. Additional funds will expand research on word learning and word priming treatments.
-- Neural Predictors of Anomia Recovery in Aphasia -- Fridriksson, Julius (SC)
-- Remediation of Word Processing and Short-Term Memory Deficits in Aphasia -- Martin, Nadine (PA)
-- Language in Primary Progressive Aphasia -- Mesulam, Marek-Marsel M (IL)
-- Communication Outcomes for Naming Treatments in Aphasia -- Raymer, Anastasia M (VA)
-- Learning Beyond criterion in Aphasia Rehabilitation -- Friedman, Rhonda B (DC)
-- Treatment for Language Processing Deficits in Adults with Right Brain Damage -- Tompkins, Connie A (PA)
-- Psycholinguistic Analysis of Aphasic Syndromes -- Schwartz, Myrna (PA)
-- A Unified Neuroanatomical Model of Speech Production and Perception -- Fridriksson, Julius (SC)
-- Lexical Retrieval, Verbal Short-Term Memory and Learning -- Martin, Nadine (PA)
Page Last Updated on June 30, 2018
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