Audio-visual prompts help stroke victim speak

Stroke survivors who experience difficulty processing language can learn to speak again more easily with audio-visual prompting, according to new research on stroke recovery.

Julius Fridriksson, a health sciences professor at University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC, presented his work at the American Association for the Advancement of Science on Feb. 16.

More than a quarter of stroke survivors acquire aphasia – a condition that impairs a person’s ability to process language, which means they have difficulty speaking and understanding what people say. Many also experience difficulty reading and writing. The condition is caused by damage to the left side of the brain and is often accompanied by paralysis and weakness of the right side of the body. Recovery from aphasia is a slow process and some will never recover.

Fridriksson is one of the authors of “Speech entrainment enables patients with Broca’s aphasia to produce fluent speech,” which outlines how audio, visual and audio-visual prompting improves patients’ speech production during training.

Fridriksson presented a video of a stroke victim trying to talk about eggs. The patient was able to manage single words when prompted by a person. When mimicking audio from an iPod or video of lips moving, the patient could mimic collections of words. With the help of simultaneous video and audio, the patient could speak in real-time.

“He hasn’t spoken for 22 years,” Fridriksson said.

Researchers conducted these tests on 13 stroke patients, a small sample.  While the severity of patients’ brain damage varied, they showed the most bilateral cortex activity when speaking with the help of audio-visuals. This was measured with magnetic resonance imaging scans.

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