Maria Varkanitsa

Email: mvarkan@bu.edu

Education

  • PhD in Linguistics, University College London (UCL), London, UK
  • MSc in Neuroscience, Language and Communication, University College London (UCL), London, UK
  • MA in Linguistics, University of Athens, Athens, Greece
  • BSc in Greek Literature (major in Linguistics), University of Athens, Athens, Greece

Research Interests

My current research focuses on language processing difficulties in stroke patients with aphasia and how these difficulties relate to their cognitive deficits and brain pathology. I use behavioural measures as well as the eye-tracking technique. By exploring both language and general cognition, my primary aim is to better understand the mechanisms that underlie language comprehension difficulties in aphasia. This could inform the development of individualized treatment protocols and hopefully result in better treatment outcomes.

Current projects

  • Small Vessel Disease and treatment outcomes in aphasia

The aim of this project is to explore whether brain pathologies, such as White Matter Hyperintensity and atrophy, affect language, nonlinguistic cognition and treatment outcomes in stroke patients with aphasia, above and beyond the lesion volume and aphasia severity.

  • Similarity-based interference in anaphora resolution in aphasia: Evidence from eye-tracking

The aim of this project is to investigate anaphora resolution and how factors such as locality and syntactic predictions, similarity-based interference and frequency affect online processing of sentences with pronouns and reflexives in English-speaking stroke patients with aphasia compared to neurotypical adults. This work is taking place at the MGH Neuropsychology Laboratory, whereas in carrying out this work, I am using the eye-tracking during listening method and the visual-world paradigm. This technique allows us to investigate real-time processing in individuals with aphasia and explore what drives comprehension failure (e.g., similarity-based interference and inability to inhibit competitors).

Publications

Major publications (peer-reviewed journals and book chapters)

  • Varkanitsa, M. & Caplan, D. (2018). On the association between memory capacity and sentence comprehension: Insights from a systematic review and meta-analysis of the aphasia literature, Journal of Neurolinguistics, 48: 4-25.
  • Angelopoulou, G., Kasselimis, D., Makrydakis, G., Varkanitsa, M., Roussos, P., Goutsos, D., Evdokimidis, I. & Potagas, C. (2018). Silent pauses in aphasia. Neuropsychologia, 114: 41-49.
  • Varkanitsa, M., Kasselimis, D., Fugard, A.J.B, Evdokimidis, I., Druks, J., Potagas, C. & Van de Koot, H. (2016). Syntactic predictions and asyntactic comprehension in aphasia: Evidence from scope relations. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 40: 15-36.
  • Kasselimis, D.S., Varkanitsa, M., (2015). Neurological Approaches to Agrammatism. In: James D. Wright (editor-in-chief), International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edition, Vol 16. Oxford: Elsevier. pp. 690–697.
  • Charidimou, A., Kasselimis, D., Varkanitsa, M., Selai, C., Potagas, C. & Evdokimidis, I. (2014). Why is it difficult to predict language impairment and outcome in patients with aphasia after stroke? Journal of Clinical Neurology, 10(2): 75-83.
  • Varkanitsa, M. (2012). Quantitative and error analysis of connected speech: Evidence from Greek-speaking patients with aphasia and normal speakers. In Fragaki, G., Georgakopoulos, A. & Themistocleous, C. (eds), Current Trends in Greek Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 313-338.
  • Goutsos, D., Potagas, C., Kasselimis, D., Varkanitsa, M. & Evdokimidis, I. (2011). Studying paraphasias in the Corpus of Greek Aphasic Speech. In Potagas, C. & Evdokimidis, I. (eds), Speech and Memory. Athens: Synapsis. pp. 23-59. (in Greek)

Other publications (peer-reviewed conference proceedings)

  • Varkanitsa, M. & Caplan, D. (2017). New patterns of eye fixations in sentence comprehension in aphasia. Academy of Aphasia – 55th Annual Meeting, November 5-7 2917, Baltimore MD, USA. Available in Frontiers in Psychology, doi: 10.3389/conf.fnhum.2017.223.00017
  • Angelopoulou, G., Varkanitsa, M., Kasselimis, D., Makrydakis, G., Tsolakopoulos, D., Roussos, P., Goutsos, D., Evdokimidis, I., Potagas, C. (2017). Let silence speak about aphasia: possible associations between pause and language related cognitive processes. Academy of Aphasia – 55th Annual Meeting, November 5-7 2917, Baltimore MD, USA. Available in Frontiers in Psychology, doi: 10.3389/conf.fnhum.2017.223.00127
  • Varkanitsa, M., Kasselimis, D., Potagas, C., Druks, J. & Van de Koot, H. (2014). Phonological Working Memory limitations and agrammatism: Is there a causal relationship between the two? Academy of Aphasia – 52nd Annual Meeting, October 5-7, 2014, Miami, FL, USA. Available in Frontiers in Psychology, doi: 10.3389/conf.fpsyg.2014.64.00081.
  • Varkanitsa, M., Kasselimis, D., Potagas, C., Druks, J. & Van de Koot, H. (2013). Processing of Contrastive Focus in Agrammatism: The role of predictability. Academy of Aphasia – 51st Annual Meeting, October 20-22, 2013, Lucerne, Switzerland. Available in Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 16, 177-178.
  • Varkanitsa, M., Kasselimis, D., Potagas, C., Evdokimidis, I., Druks, J. & Van de Koot, H. (2012). Processing of covert scope inversion in Broca’s aphasia. Academy of Aphasia – 50th Annual Meeting, October 28-30, 2012, San Francisco, CA, USA. Available in Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 18, 277 – 278.
  • Varkanitsa, M., Kasselimis, D., Potagas, C., Evdokimidis, I., Van de Koot, H. & Druks, J. (2012). Is covert A’-movement available in agrammatic Broca’s aphasia? Evidence from scope ambiguity. 13th Science of Aphasia International Conference, September 7-12, 2012, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands. Available in Stem- Spraak- en Taalpathologie, 18, 124 – 127.
  • Druks, J., Varkanitsa, M., Kasselimis, D., Potagas, C. & Evdokimidis, I. (2011). Quantitative analysis of connected speech in aphasia: Insights from Greek-speaking patients with fluent and non-fluent types of aphasia. Academy of Aphasia – 49th Annual Meeting, October 16-18, 2011, Montreal, Canada. Available in Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 23, 125 – 126.