Providing effective diagnosis and treatment for adults with aphasia

Our research in aphasia took a cognitive neuropsychological approach. Professor Lyndsey Nickels and colleagues used the convergence of evidence from people with acquired language disorders, such as post-stroke aphasia and primary progressive aphasia, and from people without language impairment. One of the main goals of our research was to address significant issues pertaining to the effective treatment of individuals with aphasia. Our focus was on research that identifies the most functional stimuli to choose for treatment, in order to ensure the optimal translation of research findings to enhance the communication skills of this patient population. Our studies resulted in publications that give speech pathologists clear guidance on how best to identify functionally relevant items for aphasia therapy. Two major experimental designs are used in single case studies to assess treatment interventions in individuals with aphasia. Advocates of these designs contend that they achieve adequate ‘experimental control’ (i.e., they can be used to determine whether an improvement seen in a participant following treatment can be uniquely attributed to that intervention and not to any other factors, such as a placebo effect). We identified several critical limitations of one of the single case-study designs and pointed out problems that plague commonly used statistical techniques in both designs (Howard, Best, & Nickels, 2015). This research offered a new statistical technique that overcomes many of the problems and provides easily implemented examples to ensure that the new statistical technique can be successfully applied in future studies.

Several resources produced by the Aphasia Research Group are publicly available.