Ongoing Research Projects

Aphasia Bank

The Aphasia Resource Center has joined other universities and aphasia centers across the country in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Its purpose is to create an Internet database for the study of language and communication in people with aphasia.

Aphasic symptoms vary greatly from person to person. Specific treatments are likely to be more effective for some people and less effective for others. By collecting a large number of measures from a large population of patients in multiple aphasia centers, we can determine the effects of various treatments. If you are an individual with aphasia who is interested in participating in this study, please contact Elizabeth Hoover (617-353-8967) for more information.

Diagnosis and treatment of sentence comprehension deficits

Although this topic is of great theoretical importance, the current research has not produced specific recommendations for improving sentence comprehension skills in patients with aphasia. Further, we still don’t know to what extent patients generalize these skills 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. Our approach will be guided by results in linguistics, psycholinguistics and aphasiology.

Neural correlates of treatment for naming deficits

Naming deficits are the most persistent and pervasive language deficits observed in patients with aphasia. In this project, we’ll examine the neural correlates of language recovery by studying changes over time during a theoretically based, semantic naming treatment. While most clinicians proceed from simple to complex items in rehabilitation of naming deficits, our proposed treatment is a novel, counter-intuitive alternative. Specifically, training the atypical examples in the category results in generalization to the untrained, typical examples, whereas training typical examples does not result in generalization to untrained, atypical examples. (Kiran, 2007, 2008; Kiran & Johnson, 2008; Kiran & Thompson, 2003).

In our proposed experimental paradigm, we will also compare treated and untreated patients with normal controls to help determine whether the individual differences in brain activation patterns are beneficial, epiphenomenal or even deleterious to actual recovery. By analyzing the effectiveness of our treatment program, we can make recommendations about best practices for language therapy in aphasia, an important issue in the current healthcare climate.

Rehabilitation of naming deficits in bilingual aphasia

In this project, we’ll examine the effects of a semantic, feature-based treatment for improving naming abilities in eight bilingual patients with aphasia (French-English and Spanish-English). This work builds upon a recently completed pilot study with two French-English and two Spanish-English patients (Kiran & Roberts, 2009). Guided by theoretical models that suggest the weaker language has a greater effect on the stronger language than vice-versa, the purpose of the study is to examine the extent of cross-language generalization when the weaker language is trained in bilingual patients with naming deficits.

The proposed study will use a single-subject experimental design with all participants receiving treatment in their less proficient language prior to the stroke (i.e., weaker language Lw). The results of this experiment will facilitate our understanding of naming deficits in bilingual aphasia regardless of language combinations (e.g., French-English and Spanish-English). Further, our results will have far-reaching implications for remediating bilingual naming deficits. From a clinical perspective, we expect the study to help determine best practices for treatment in bilingual aphasia.