Research

Aphasia research group combines neuroscientific, neurocognitive and interactional approaches to study aphasia and other neurogenic speech and language problems in adults. The studies of the group members include among others manifestations of aphasia in linguistic tasks and in conversational interaction, linguistic learning in aphasia, practices and outcomes of aphasia treatment and consequences of aphasia to quality of life.

Conversation is regarded as a core element of social life. The main functions of conversation are exchanging information and maintaining social relationships as well as creating a sense of self. Aphasia always causes problems in face-to-face interaction. Verbal communication between a person with aphasia and her/his interlocutor loses its fluency. If the aphasia is severe, the verbal communication of a person with aphasia may be totally hindered. In milder forms of aphasia, the speech of a person with aphasia is characterised by pauses, hesitations, world searches and problems in producing sentence structures. Aphasic language difficulties lead to problems of understandability and intersubjectivity in conversation. Typical interactional problems emerge, e.g. long and complex repair sequences in conversation. All these conversational challenges may severely hinder the social participation of a person with aphasia.

The main goal of aphasia therapy is to improve the everyday communication of a person with aphasia. A central component of interaction-focused treatment is that the significant others are included in the therapy.

Ph.D. students are Riikka Brunou, Sanna Lemmetyinen, Asta Tuomenoksa and Maria Widenius.

Neuroscientific research evidence shows that intensive and ample language use in systematically organised therapy circumstances influences on the brain organization and functions of language networks in post-stroke aphasia. This insight has important implications for speech and language relearning in post-stroke rehabilitation and interventions. New behavioural treatment approaches to speech and language therapy emphasize massed practice in a short time, thus maximizing therapy quantity and frequency and, therefore, the correlation of the behavioural and neuronal changes.

Ph.D. students are Paula Heikkinen and Leena Salonen.

Novel word learning has been relatively little studied in people with aphasia, although it can provide a relatively pure measure of their learning potential, and thereby contribute to the development of effective aphasia treatment methods. We are exploring the capacity of people with aphasia for linguistic learning and cognitive-linguistic factors related to it. Furthermore, the effect of modality on learning and the neural underpinnings of successful learning have been explored.

University lecturer, Ph.D. Leena Tuomiranta has a special interest in learning in aphasia.

a) Quality of life in Aphasia

The use of language is the basis of social life including to maintain communication networks and taking care of one’s life. There is ample evidence of the great impact of aphasia on people’s life. The aims of aphasia therapy are to restore language and its use as well as to promote the social life in people with aphasia. Social well-being and quality of life are the ultimate aims of aphasia therapy.

The Aphasia Committee of International Association of Logopedics and Phoniatrics chaired by Anu Klippi performed an international research project in 16 countries across the world to gain an insight into speech and language therapists’ perspectives on and clinical practices in quality of life in aphasia.

Special Issue edited by Anu Klippi: Quality of life in aphasia. Folia Phoniatrica et Logopedica (2015) 67, 3.

b) Best practice recommendations for aphasia

Health services have traditionally been nationally focused. However, the move towards globalisation of healthcare is in view. This trend includes the intention that in the future healthcare services will follow to similar quality standards and guidelines throughout the world. The international Aphasia United Best Practice Working Group and its Advisory Committee organized a project to develop and gain multinational consensus on an initial set of best practice recommendations for aphasia including screening, assessment, intervention and discharge recommendations.

Simmons-Mackie, N., Worrall, L., Murray, L. L., Enderby, P., Rose, M. L., Paek, E. J. & Klippi, A. on behalf of the Aphasia United Best Practice Working Group and Advisory Committee (2017). The top ten: Best practice recommendations for aphasia. Aphasiology, 31, 2:131−151.