Aphasia Research Center 

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The broad goal of our research is to better understand how language is instantiated in the human brain. Studies focus on neurologically healthy individuals and those with stroke-induced left hemisphere damage (a condition called aphasia). We are specifically interested in sentence production and word retrieval abilities and their breakdown in aphasia, language learning and training-induced neural plasticity, and their interaction with bilingualism and cognitive mechanisms.

Research Themes

  • The ability to comprehend and speak in grammatically accurate sentences
  • How different word categories (especially verbs relative to nouns) are represented in the brain and how these are affected in persons with aphasia
  • Testing the efficacy of different intervention strategies for aphasia, including impairment-focused language training and caregiver training
  • Neural plasticity, that is, the ability of the brain to alter its function in response to brain injury and training
  • The interaction between cognitive abilities and communication
  • The influence of bilingualism on speaking and aphasia


Research Projects

Cognitive control, word retrieval and bilingual aphasia: is there a relationship?
Word retrieval difficulty is a hallmark feature of aphasia, and is incompletely understood. According to many word production models, successful lexical selection involves lateral inhibition of lexical competitors, and suppression of the non-target language in bilingual speakers. Thus cognitive control is crucial for word production. This study examines whether persons with aphasia show 1) evidence of a cognitive control deficit that is modulated by bilingual status, and (2) a relationship between measures of word naming and cognitive control.
Cognitive Control Results
Decomposition of morphologically complex verbs: effects of aging left hemisphere damage

Numerous studies have documented difficulties in verbal expression and auditory processing of morphosyntax, including verb morphology, in persons with agrammatic aphasia (PWA).  It is not known if difficulties with verb morphology are a downstream effect of early (sub)lexical impairments, or are restricted to higher level syntactic-semantic processes. Moreover there is little research on orthographic decomposition in agrammatic PWA. The main question of this study is whether agrammatic PWA differ from neurotypical adults in neural processing of morphological structure and lexical access. This question is addressed by investigating spatiotemporal response for visually presented words using magnetoencephalography (MEG).

MEG response
Relationship between musical and linguistic structure in aphasia
This project examines the association between language abilities, musical training and brain structure. It involves performing computer-based experiments for language and music listening, and obtaining high resolution brain images through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)/Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI). Project collaborator: Robert Slevc
How are light and heavy verbs produced in aphasia? Testing the division of labor between syntax and semantics
Verb production is commonly impaired in aphasia, but it has been proposed that not all verbs are impaired equally. Some individuals with aphasia have been shown to prefer semantically general “light” verbs, while others prefer semantically specific “heavy” verbs. This study tests Gordon and Dell’s (2003) “division of labor” theory, which suggests that access to syntactic and semantic processes in language production influences the weight of verbs selected.

             Neural Plasticity & Language Training

Language training efficacy
We investigate the success of different methods of language training (therapy) on production of verbs, verb inflections and sentences in persons with aphasia. Frequently, the language training procedures are based on the findings of our own research on the nature of language abilities in persons with aphasia. Some examples of the treatments that we have investigated are those of verb morphology, verb naming, and constraint-induced therapy.
Status: Recruiting participants
Spatiotemporal pattern pattern of brain activity with language training (verb inflections) in aphasia
We investigated differences in brain activity between persons with aphasia and neurologically healthy adults when during reading/listening of words and sentences using magnetoencephalography (MEG). Some persons with aphasia who participated in language therapy undertook the MEG scanning at multiple points in time, before and following therapy to document neural plasticity.

Cognitive, neural and lifestyle predictors of language training (verb naming) in aphasia
This project examines the effect of verb naming training on verb retrieval in aphasia. In addition, we examine why different persons with aphasia respond differently to language training by examining neurological (brain structure and function), cognitive (e.g., attention, memory etc.) and lifestyle (family support) factors. This study uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI). Collaborators: D J Bolger, Robert Slevc & Thomas Zeffiro
Status: Recruiting participants
Investigating outcomes of communication partner training on conversations of persons with aphasia 
 We conduct a series of 1-day training workshops to educate communication partners (CP) about various conversational techniques and strategies to repair communication breakdown. We refer to this training as Communication Partner Training at University of Maryland (CoPTUM). We are investigating  the efficacy of these workshops on  conversations and attitudes towards conversations in both the persons with aphasia and their caregivers. Student researcher: Allison Yutesler; Collaborator: Kristin Slawson
Go to workshop page

Status: Recruiting participants


Does the bilingual disadvantage differ by lexical category?
This is a series of studies comparing noun and verb retrieval in neurologically healthy persons. The goal is to better understand what are differences in lexical organization between monolingual and bilingual speakers. Student researcher: Ran Li
Status: Recruiting participants
Performance of bilingual versus monolinguals
The role of first language differences on test performance
Our research focuses on differences between bilingual and monolingual persons with aphasia (and healthy adults) in language and cognitive abilities. We are currently developing language (aphasia) test norms for Hindi-English and Spanish-English bilingual speakers for language and cognitive measures used in adult neurorehabilitation. Collaborator: Lisa Milman
Status: Recruiting participants

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Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences University of Maryland