Every year approximately 15,000 Veterans are hospitalized for stroke, and up to 40% will experience the devastating impacts of language impairment (aphasia). Difficulty retrieving the right word at the right time is one of the most common complaints in aphasia. Communication difficulty can reduce independence and negatively impact well-being and health outcomes. The negative social and economic effects of aphasia are felt by Veterans, their families, and society.
Amy Rodriguez, PhD is a speech-language pathologist and VA rehabilitation scientist. Dr. Rodriguez and her team are passionate about ensuring that Veterans get the most benefit from aphasia treatment. Her research is focused on identifying way to enhance the effectiveness of aphasia treatment, define optimal intensity and dose of treatment, and predictors of treatment response. Dr. Rodriguez’s current work is focused on pairing transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) with a sound-based word retrieval treatment to determine if this combination results in positive treatment effects in a shorter amount of time. She is also investigating whether activating the right side of the brain with gestures of the left-hand can improve word retrieval and how the schedule of practice (e.g., spacing sessions over a short vs. long period of time) impacts treatment outcomes. Dr. Rodriguez uses language and cognitive assessments, as well as structural and functional neuroimaging, to identify patterns of treatment response.
Dr. Rodriguez’s past work showed that the schedule of practice influences treatment outcomes. She found that when treatment sessions were spaced over a longer time period, there was greater maintenance of treatment gains. She has also showed that specific language and cognitive abilities, and specific patterns of brain activation, predicted treatment outcomes. Dr. Rodriguez’s studies will provide new insights into aphasia recovery and help guide treatment selection to ensure that Veterans receive the best treatment approach for improving their language function and quality of life.
Recent publications related to this research:
B Crosson, AD Rodriguez, DA Copland, J Fridriksson, LC Krishnamurthy, M Meinzer, AM Raymer, V Krishnamurthy & A Leff (2019). Neuroplasticity and aphasia treatments: New approaches for an old problem. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 90, 1147-1155.
J Dignam, D Copland, K O’Brien, P Burfein, A Khan & AD Rodriguez (2017). Influence of cognitive ability on therapy outcomes for anomia in adults with chronic poststroke aphasia. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 60, 406-421.