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Neuroscience insights improve neurorehabilitation of poststroke aphasia

Researchers at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit (CBSU) have brought to fruit some of their more theory-guided research in the development of new methods for treating patients who have partly lost their language due to stroke.

The condition, called aphasia, had once been believed to become stable and unimprovable one year after stroke. However, researchers at the CBSU have shown that, even several years after stroke, significant improvement of language performance emerged when a new type of intensive speech-language therapy, called “constraint-induced aphasia therapy”, was applied for two weeks.

In a series of experimental studies, Professor Friedemann Pulvermuller, pictured above right, Programme Leader at the CBSU, and his team had demonstrated that the language system of the human brain intensely interacts with the brain systems for motor and action control. Inspired by these language-action links, they developed a new intensive method for language therapy, where language is embedded in and interwoven with overt bodily actions. The efficiency of the new method in chronic stroke patients has been demonstrated by randomised controlled trials. In a collaboration with Professor Marcelo Berthier at the University of Malaga, the method could recently be improved further by additional drug therapy with a glutamate inhibitor.

A recent publication in Nature Reviews Neurology summarised the state of the art in research on language therapy, especially highlighting the close link between theoretical and experimental work in the cognitive neuroscience of language and its translational implementation in intensive language action therapy of post-stroke aphasia.

Reference: Berthier, M. L., & Pulvermüller, F. (2011). Neuroscience insights improve neurorehabilitation of post-stroke aphasia. Nature Reviews Neurology, 7(2), 86-97.

Posted on 11/03/2011

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