The objective of this research is to test the effects of listening to noise (i.e. auditory feedback masking) on speech fluency in stroke survivors with aphasia and apraxia of speech. People with nonfluent types of aphasia frequently have apraxia of speech, which affects the motor programming of speech movements, causing distortions, slow rate, and speech disfluencies that impede the forward flow of communication. Speaking while listening to noise (e.g. auditory masking) is known to reduce disfluencies and increase speech rate in people who stutter. This method has been tested in people with aphasia, resulting in positive effects on speech production for a subset of those tested. We contend that individuals who have apraxia of speech in addition to aphasia are most likely to benefit from auditory masking, but most previous studies did not test participants for apraxia of speech. In addition, though masking is most likely to affect speech disfluencies, previous studies did not measures disfluencies. The proposed work has two specific aims.
Aim 1 will determine the effect of auditory masking on speech fluency in stroke survivors with aphasia and apraxia of speech.
Aim 2 will identify individual factors that predict a positive response, including presence of apraxia of speech, lesion characteristics, and type of aphasia (e.g. Broca's, Wernicke's). Voxel-based lesion analysis techniques will be used to determine sites of lesion associated with positive and negative response to auditory masking. Completion of this study will remove barriers to studying auditory masking as a technique for clinical intervention, but also as a research tool for behavioral neuroscientists probing the speech motor control system in speakers with aphasia and apraxia of speech.

Public Health Relevance

Impaired speech production is a major obstacle to full participation in life roles by stroke survivors with aphasia and apraxia of speech. The proposed study will demonstrate the short-term effects of auditory masking on speech disfluencies and identify individual factors that predict a positive response, enabling future work to develop auditory masking as a treatment adjuvant targeting long-term improvement in speech. Providing an additional treatment option for adults with aphasia and apraxia of speech will have the clear benefit of improving quality of life and allowing individuals to participate more actively in their health care decisions through improved communication.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZDC1-SRB-L (50))
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Shekim, Lana O
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University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Other Health Professions
Schools of Medicine
Chapel Hill
United States
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