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January 2009 Issue
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Jerzy Szaflarski, MD, PhD, and Scott Holland, PhD
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UC to Test New Stroke Recovery Rehab Method

Published January 2009

A UC researcher has been awarded $2.5 million from the National Institutes of Health to study language recovery after stroke and test a new method of rehabilitation from loss of language function.

A team led by Jerzy Szaflarski, MD, PhD, associate professor of neurology and member of the UC Neuroscience Institute, will use functional MRI (fMRI) to examine brain changes while recovering from a stroke resulting in loss of language functions, a symptom known as aphasia.

fMRI uses magnetic resonance imaging to study brain function. Incorporating “real time” sequence, this non-invasive technique can be used to follow changes in brain functions in response to normal development and abnormal function loss triggered by an event such as a stroke.

Szaflarski’s study will use fMRI to map changes in language activation patterns and determine language localization after left middle cerebral artery stroke. For most healthy people, language functions are located in the left side of the brain.

Szaflarski’s team plans to test the effectiveness of a new method of aphasia rehabilitation called constraint- induced aphasia therapy, which forces patients to slowly constrain their communication methods until they communicate only verbally, without using gestures, non-word sounds or writing.

This is an intensive approach to aphasia therapy over a short period of time.

“Loss of language functions is one of the most feared symptoms of stroke,” says Szaflarski. “We plan to demonstrate that constraintinduced language therapy administered one year after the occurrence of stroke positively influences language recovery when compared to traditional care.”

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