First published on

In an article in Brain, researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and elsewhere report which brain regions must be intact in stroke survivors with aphasia if they are to perform well in a speech entrainment session, successfully following along with another speaker.

Aphasia is the inability to speak, write or understand spoken or written language. One of the main causes of aphasia is stroke, the third leading cause of death in the U.S. About one in three stroke survivors develops aphasia.

Patients with non-fluent aphasia speak in short, halting, telegraphic sentences and have trouble forming their words. However, they often understand language relatively well.

“Speech entrainment is asking the person to repeat in real time what they hear and see, or in other words to copy the speech of another speaker,” said Leonardo Bonilha, M.D., Ph.D., who led the study. Bonilha is the SmartStateĀ® Endowed Chair for Brain Imaging and an associate professor in the Department of Neurology at MUSC.

Bonilha and Janina Wilmskoelter, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at MUSC, collaborated closely with Julius Fridriksson, Ph.D., professor in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina and director of the Center for the Study of Aphasia Recovery (C-STAR). Other team members include C-STAR collaborators from Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, Irvine.

Speech therapy can be effective in helping stroke survivors communicate better, but non-fluency is one of the hardest symptoms to treat. Speech entrainment is an experimental approach for non-fluent aphasia in which stroke survivors practice speech production in real time by following along with another speaker.

However, not all patients with non-fluent aphasia can follow along with another speaker, suggesting that they might not benefit from speech entrainment therapy should it one day be approved for use in the clinic. Before this study, researchers did not know why some stroke survivors could follow along with another speaker and others could not.

The multi-institutional team of aphasia researchers studied which brain structures were associated with successful speech entrainment. They found that the left lateral temporal cortex needs to be intact for a stroke survivor to successfully follow along with another speaker.

“Our finding helps us understand better what are the neural mechanisms associated with the ability to have one’s speech entrained,” said Bonilha.

Read the full article here.

Image: Pixabay