Ongoing Research Projects

Conversation Group Treatment Study

This research uses a hypothesis-driven approach to test the efficacy of conversation treatment and develop and refine a mechanistic pathway of how conversation treatment leads to behavioral changes in communication ability. We will systematically test the efficacy of group conversation treatment for people with aphasia and explore whether the effects of treatment differ as a result of the group size (large group or small group), group composition and overall severity of aphasia.

Treatment sessions will occur in groups of 6-8 people with aphasia or with 2 people with aphasia. During treatment sessions, discourse will be facilitated on a focused set of every day topics, such as current events or travel. Linguistic and multi-modal cueing hierarchies will be tailored to individual client goals and used to maximize communication success.

The prediction is that conversation treatment is an effective method for improving communication in people with aphasia, but that specific benefits may differ based on variables such as group size, group composition, and aphasia severity. The results will help inform best practices for aphasia treatment and refine a hypothesized model about the mechanisms underlying conversation treatment.

If you are interested in learning more about  this study, please contact the aphasia center (617-353-0197) for more information.

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.

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.