Technology (e.g. robotics, assistive technology, mHealth)
Arts & Neuroscience
I wil be describing a novel home-based video gaming therapy for aphasia - a communication disorder after brain injuries, which leverages rhythmic process in order to facilitate speech fluency.
Every year, approximately 100,000 are diagnosed with aphasia—a language disorder leading to substantial difficulties in their daily communication. Notably, many individuals with aphasia can sing despite their speech difficulties, an observation which led to the development of melodic-intonation therapy (MIT) – a technique using intoned (sung) patterns of words for aphasia treatment. Although rhythm has long been considered secondary to melody in MIT, recent evidence has challenged this notion. That is, rhythm, alone, is sufficient to facilitate improvements in speech fluency for people with aphasia. Furthermore, there is mounting evidence indicating that rhythm links music and language abilities. Indeed, rhythm therapy has been utilized for other language disorders such as dyslexia. We have recently devised rhythm-based language therapy program, in which people with aphasia learn to capitalize on a “rhythmic groove” when initiating each word, and will use this groove to string words into phrases and sentences. This was used in a case study with a 61 year-old woman with chronic aphasia who had severely impaired speech fluency due to a large unilateral stroke in the left hemisphere. Following 8 weeks of rhythm therapy, she exhibited remarkable improvement in speech production (i.e., from 1-2 spontaneous words to 16 sentences made from 42 words), as well as increased functional and structural connectivity of the contralateral audiomotor network. We have since translated the rhythm therapy into fun and engaging gamification termed “TheraBeat” that can be installed in any mobile device (e.g., tablet PC). A follow-up study is currently underway in which TheraBeat is used as a home-based aphasia therapy intervention to increase accessibility to therapy by minimizing the burden of patient travel.