Touching Lives - September 2003
Language impairment after stroke
It is estimated that one quarter of people who suffer a stroke have aphasia — communication problems affecting speech, understanding, reading and writing. Around 15,000 people a year in the UK suffer aphasia after stroke and, while some people recover language use spontaneously, others do not.
Using specialised brain imaging techniques, Dr Jane Warren aims to identify the changes in organisation of speech processing after stroke that are associated with successful recovery of language comprehension.
“Increased bloodflow in the brain shows where there is increased nerve cell activity — so where the brain is working hardest. ^I’ll be measuring bloodflow while a person is having sound played to them^ — some nonsense, and some words, to see what their brain recognises as speech and how the brain responds to it.”
The ultimate aim of the research is to come up with a combination of drug and behavioural therapies to help people recover their language use.
“Until we know more about what the brain does by itself to get better, we won’t be able to help people who don’t recover language after a stroke. But everyone is different — no two brains are the same, which is one of the amazing things about studying the brain, and one of the challenges.”