Current Research Projects

Current research activity by affiliated researchers of the Harold Goodglass Aphasia Research Center consists of 23 research projects including 14 R01s. A brief description of some of these projects follows.

Speech and Language Processing in Aphasia
Sheila Blumstein, Brown University

The broad goal of this research program is to provide a window into those aspects of the cognitive architecture of the lexical processing system that are impaired and those that are spared in aphasia and to examine the neural systems underlying such processing. Our focus is on lexical processing and the effects of competition on mapping from sound to meaning in auditory word recognition and on mapping from meaning to sound in spoken word production.The focus is on lexical processing and the effects of competition on mapping from sound to meaning in auditory word recognition and on mapping from meaning to sound in spoken word production. Please visit Dr. Blumstein’s lab website.

Language in the Aging Brain
Martin Albert and Loraine Obler, Boston University

In our current research, we seek to explain changes in lexical retrieval and auditory comprehension – language domains we know to change in healthy older adults. Our principal research question is: To what extent do health and cognition account for age-related changes in language? For more information, please visit the website for the Language and Aging Brain project.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation to Improve Speech Project
Margaret Naeser, Boston VA Healthcare System and Boston University

This study investigates whether repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) can be used to improve speech in chronic stroke patients with nonfluent aphasia. The rTMS procedure allows painless, non-invasive stimulation of human cortex (1 cm x 1 cm). Slow (1 Hz) rTMS appears to decrease excitability in the targeted cortical region of interest (ROI) leading to measurable behavioral effects. Data from functional neuroimaging studies suggest that impaired modulation of right (R) perisylvian homologous language areas may be a contributing factor to nonfluent speech in aphasia. Patients with nonfluent speech have excess blood flow (presumed abnormal increase in cortical excitability) in R perisylvian homologous language areas including in part, R Broca’s area (pars triangularis, Brodmann area, BA 45, and pars opercularis, BA 44); R sensorimotor cortex-mouth and R Wernicke’s (BA 22) (Belin et al., 1996; Lindfield et al., 1999; Rosen et al., 2000; Naeser et al., submitted). It is hypothesized that suppression of activity in the directly targeted ROI will have an overall modulating effect on functionally connected elements of the distributed neural network for naming (and propositional speech) and will result in a behavioral improvement.
Please visit Dr. Naeser’s lab website.

Cognitive Neuroscience of Visual Imagery: fMRI and TMS Studies
Stephen M. Kosslyn (UCLA)

Visual mental memory is used in memory, reasoning, and learning. A deeper understanding of the nature of imagery has practical implications for the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of neuropsychological conditions. The general goal of this research is to conduct functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) studies to investigate the representations and processes that underlie visual mental imagery.

Cognitive Control and the Functional Organization of the Frontal Cortex
David Badre, Brown University

The goal of this research program is to advance our understanding of the functional organization of frontal cortex and the ways in which interactions among frontal regions permit internal control of thought and action, an ability termed cognitive control. The proposed experiments test the hypothesis that the rostro-caudal axis of the frontal lobes comprises a processing hierarchy whereby more anterior regions support cognitive control involving progressively more abstract goals, plans, and action representations.  Please visit Dr. Badre’s lab website.

Translational Research Center for TBI and Stress Disorders

William Milberg, Boston VA Healthcare System

The goal of the proposed Translational Research Center for TBI and Stress Disorders (TRCTS) is to promote multidisciplinary research that will lead to innovations in the diagnosis and treatment of the complex issues presented by the growing population of veterans who suffer the consequences of mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) occurring in the context of stress-related emotional disorders. Please visit his website

Midlife Health on Cognitive Decline in Aging
Avron Spiro, Boston VA Healthcare System and Boston University

This project, based on the Normative Aging Study, examines the influence of midlife health on cognitive decline during later life. The study is funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs and draws from active male participants in the Normative Aging Study (NAS). Participants are administered a battery of cognitive tests over a half an hour which involve language, memory, reasoning, and drawing tasks.

Theoretically based treatment for sentence comprehension deficits in aphasia
Swathi Kiran, Boston University

One goal of the Healthy People 2010 program is to reduce health disparities across different segments of the population. Diagnosis and treatment of sentence comprehension deficits in patients with aphasia is one area where disparities continue to exist even though this topic is of great theoretical importance. The current research on this topic, however, lacks specific recommendations on how to train sentence comprehension skills in patients with aphasia and to what extent generalization of comprehension skills occurs across sentences of similar syntactic structure and across different comprehension tasks. The goal of the project is to develop an effective, theoretically sound, treatment for sentence comprehension deficits in patients with aphasia following stroke.