NIH grant of $4.7 million will target aphasia
June 22, 2012
Dr. Julius Fridriksson, a researcher in the Arnold School’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, is launching a study to test whether electrical stimulation of the brain can enhance the recovery of persons who suffer from aphasia, the language impairment caused by a stroke.
Funded by a $4.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, the five-year clinical trial will involve 75 stroke patients between the ages of 30 and 80, half each from the Columbia and Charleston areas
All must have suffered a stroke involving the left side of the brain – the side that controls speech, said Fridriksson, the study’s lead investigator.
“This is very much like a drug trial where you either get a real drug or you get a placebo,” he said.
During the trials, low-voltage electrical stimulation is applied to the brain of each patient who will undergo about 40 minutes of speech therapy at the same time.
Some patients, however, get a placebo electrical stimulation that is dialed down to zero after about 30 seconds without them being aware. The others get a full measure of electrical stimulation during the first 20 minutes of the speech therapy.
Comparing the outcomes of the speech therapy administered to each group will reveal whether the electrical stimulation enhances the effect of speech therapy in aphasia.
Finding a way to enhance aphasia recovery is an important goal in stroke research, said Fridriksson.
While “considerable research effort has focused on increasing aphasia treatment efficacy, most chronic stroke patients with aphasia experience limited recovery,” Fridriksson said. “Therefore, enhanced aphasia treatment outcome is of paramount interest as it may improve patients’ communication ability and quality of life.”
Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability in the United States. Aphasia, an impairment of the ability to process language, is one of the most devastating results of left-hemisphere stroke, he said.
The new study is the latest in a long line of research efforts by Fridriksson, whom scientific colleagues hail as one of the “most distinguished pioneers” in the study of speech disabilities related to stroke.
Fridriksson was named a 2011 Health Care Hero in research for the region and was selected the 2011 recipient of the Louis M. DiCarlo Award for Clinical Achievement from the American Speech and Hearing Foundation. The award recognizes significant accomplishments in the advancement of clinical service in speech-language pathology and/or audiology.