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UK scientists develop effective new aphasia treatment

Thursday 19th April 2018
Scientists at the University of Manchester have developed an effective new form of speech therapy for stroke patients suffering from aphasia. Image: monkeybusinessimages via iStock
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UK scientists have achieved success with a new method of treatment for aphasia, which they believe could have significant benefits for improving the speech of stroke patients who struggle with this condition afterwards.

Using specialist software that works in conjunction with a patient's cognitive abilities, speech therapists and neuroscientists from the University of Manchester believe they have found a way to speed up the return of speech to people who have suffered a stroke.

The technology - which has so far been tested on 20 patients - involves individuals being shown a series of images via a screen before being given three seconds to describe the image verbally. Over time, the activity is sped up, until patients are given just one second to react aloud.

Before taking part in this activity, aphasia patients were able to deploy just 17 per cent of words correctly in speech, but this increased to 59 per cent following the new form of treatment.

These results were compared against those of patients undergoing standard post-stroke speech therapy treatment: just 14 per cent of words were being deployed correctly by this group prior to treatment, with this improving to 33 per cent afterwards.

This therefore demonstrates that the new software-based method of treatment is markedly more effective than current methods. As a result, it could benefit many of the 1.2 million stroke survivors living in the UK, allowing them to communicate more easily with their loved ones, and feel less excluded from society.

Dr Paul Conroy, a clinical lecturer in speech and language therapy at the university, commented: "Though symptoms can vary, the consequences of aphasia at its worst can be devastating; not being able to use words, understand, read or write words can be very tough even at the less affected end of the spectrum. So, we're excited this new approach seems to yield significant benefits."

Written by Martin Lambert

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