Aphasia lab recruits participants for stroke treatment study

An individual with a sponge electrode attached to its head.

A patient receiving transcranial direct current stimulation at an aphasia laboratory.

About 800,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke each year. To draw attention to stroke risk factors and how to prevent them, the National Stroke Association hosts Stroke Awareness Month in his May.

A stroke can leave a limb paralyzed on one side of the body, limit physical abilities, and impair speech. One of the common speech disorders resulting from stroke is called aphasia and is caused by damage to the language areas of the brain. About one-third of people who have had a stroke develop this disorder, which affects their ability to express and understand language. However, despite its relatively high incidence, most adults in the United States (85%) say they have never heard of aphasia.

To address this contradiction, the National Aphasia Association has designated June as Aphasia Awareness Month. The disorder also received national attention when award-winning actor Bruce Willis was diagnosed with aphasia in 2022, forcing him to retire from acting. Erin Reilly, associate professor of communication sciences and disability in the School of Humanities and Sciences and a leading aphasic expert, explained the background to Willis’ diagnosis in an article for The Washington Post.

In the Aphasia Lab at Syracuse University, Riley and team members are researching cutting-edge methods of treating aphasia to maximize treatment efficacy and efficiency. This is very important considering the relatively short rehabilitation period for stroke patients.

The Aphasia Lab is currently conducting research funded by the National Institutes of Health to investigate brain stimulation and its effects on attention and language recovery. This treatment, called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), is a safe, non-invasive type of electrical brain stimulation used while participants receive speech therapy.

Headshot of a smiling woman.

Erin Riley, Principal Investigator, Institute for Aphasia, Syracuse University.

It works by sending very small electrical currents to specific parts of a person’s brain through sponge electrodes attached to the participant’s scalp. The placement of these electrodes is thought to promote activation of certain parts of the brain, making it easier for neurons in that area of ​​the brain to send electrical signals to other neurons during speech therapy. During the 60-minute session, a speech pathologist helps participants practice listening to sentences and answering questions that assess their comprehension of the sentences.

“Our study showed that transcranial direct current stimulation can significantly enhance the effectiveness of speech therapy for many aphasic patients,” Riley says. “Although this type of therapy is still only used in research studies, it is not long before tDCS becomes a common treatment in clinical practice, as the results support its use in clinical practice. I think.”

The Aphasia Lab is currently recruiting participants ages 18 and older from the central New York area who have had a stroke and experienced speech problems post-stroke. Please complete the 5 minute screening to see if you are eligible. If eligible for study treatment, the participant will be asked to complete 1 pre-testing session, 10 language training sessions with her tDCS, and 2 post-testing sessions. Each session lasts 1-2 hours. There is no charge for participants to receive this treatment, and up to $150 is reimbursed for their time.

Read more about brain stimulation and speech therapy research.

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