Dr. Esther Kim
University of Alberta
Aphasia, Stroke, Traumatic Brain Injury
About the researcher
Undergraduate Student at the University of Alberta
Aphasia is the result of an acquired brain injury (often stroke or a traumatic brain injury) that impairs a person’s ability to read, speak, or otherwise process language normally. Prior studies have found that certain brain waves associated with reading language are abnormal in aphasia patients, suggesting the underlying brain activity could be a therapeutic target. This study not only further expanded our understanding of language difficulties, but also tested a non-invasive intervention, transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS), as a way to treat aphasia.
This study tested if tDCS in conjunction with an established reading therapy is effective in reducing impairments in aphasia. As part of this experiment, they conducted brainwave recordings to further understand what types of brain activity are associated with an effective recovery. They found that individuals who received reading treatment in combination with tDCS (opposed to the reading treatment alone) showed greater benefits in spelling, reading speed, accuracy, and comprehension! Success!
This pilot study has already helped many individuals with aphasia who participated in the study. While this was a successful pilot, the next steps are to replicate this finding with a larger sample of aphasia patients and try to optimize the recovery. Perhaps jacking up the stimulation intensity helps. Perhaps longer sessions are better. This study demonstrated how effective and easy to implement this treatment can be, laying the foundation for more research to show the efficacy of tDCS on a larger clinical scale.