New research out of Arizona State University is taking a look at whether we’ve been thinking about things backward when it comes to aphasia. Is it better to first focus on speaking or understanding? A doctoral student has been awarded a grant to study whether changing the way the speaker conveys information can bring about better understanding. This could lead to better speaking down the road for people with aphasia:

With that premise in mind, speech and language researchers at Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions are testing an innovative way to help people who struggle with communication following a stroke. Rather than focusing on a patient’s ability to speak, they will instead conduct research to determine if the way speakers talk can improve a stroke patient’s ability to understand.

The researcher, Arianna LaCroix, focuses on one piece of communication at a time, starting with comprehension. The idea is that it may be easier to treat aphasia once it’s confirmed that a person understands language.

Possible Treatment

LaCroix is beginning by observing the effects of tone. Her theory is that some people will benefit from over-pronunciation while others will be better served by a lack of inflection. The option depends on the type of stroke and damage:

LaCroix theorizes that speaking in an exaggerated way will help patients whose attention span is better, while those whose memory is better will understand more if they are spoken to in a flat, even tone.

The person’s strengths will guide and shape their speech therapy once comprehension is established.

This research has just begun, so we’re still two years away from seeing whether or not these hypotheses hold. But it’s exciting to see a different approach to treating aphasia and imagine the possibilities.

Image: Trent Erwin via Unsplash