One of the most devastating consequences of a left-hemisphere stroke (CVA) is aphasia, the loss of language abilities. The impairment is characterized by great inter-individual variability and is associated with the site and the extent f the brain lesion and with a number of personal and external variables. Despite the promise of recent evidence for neural plasticity in the adult brain - with studies demonstrating neuronal reorganization and growth even in adulthood - recovery from aphasia is typically slow and almost always incomplete. Understanding the neural processes associated with recovery from aphasia is critical to the effort to maximize language rehabilitation. The context of such efforts o maximize recovery and reduce disability from aphasia has seen a shift in recent years, with increasing numbers of care receivers who speak multiple languages and belong to multiple cultures. Indeed, it is estimated that more than half the worlds'population is bilingual or multilingual;in the U.S., the numbers of those who speak languages other than English at home have been growing, with a recent estimate of 20% (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007). In the proposed research project, multilingual individuals with aphasia will be recruited and two sets of data will be obtained. The first comprises information about the participants'language history, proficiency and use, brain lesion, and their performance on language production and comprehension tasks in all their languages. The second set involves the administration of intensive language treatment and the assessment of treatment-related change in the treated as well as untreated languages. Predictions of currently competing theories of how multiple languages are organized and accessed in the adult brain will be tested by the examination of differential patterns of impairment in different languages and of cross-language treatment carryover. Moreover, a better understanding of the interaction among the variables that contribute to patterns of impairment and recovery in multilinguals will lead to the improvement of language treatment in multilingual aphasia and will inform clinical decisions in language assessment and treatment for the growing multilingual population of our day.
The proposed research project examines parallel and differential impairment of the multiple languages of multilingual speakers who have aphasia (language impairment resulting from brain damage) and their response to intense language treatment. The results of the study will provide evidence to support or refute currently competing theories of brain-language relations. The findings of the study will also inform clinical practices in aphasia rehabilitation and will contribute to the efforts to maximize recovery and reduce the disability associated with aphasia.
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