Adaptive language software helps stroke survivors communicate



Adaptive language-learning software is extremely beneficial in helping people with aphasia regain their language skills, a new US study has found.

Aphasia is a language and communication disorder affecting up to a third of stroke survivors.

In the Baycrest study, a total of 28 subjects were recruited from aphasia support programmes and aphasia-related groups on social media.

The participants completed an evaluation with a researcher, where they were shown pictures and asked to name them, for example, “umbrella” or “squirrel.”

The participants then used an online program to practice identifying images they could not name during their initial evaluation, with each picture including two hints and the answer.

Participants were asked to use the program for 30 minutes a day over two weeks.

Researchers tested three different strategies to schedule the repetition of words in the program.

After finishing their training, participants completed two additional evaluations, the first conducted the week following the training, and the second, four weeks later, to test how well they had retained their skills.

The researchers found that participants successfully relearned the majority of the trained items using the learning software.

The adaptive spaced repetition strategy performed the best.

The strategy presents correctly named items less frequently, thus focusing more on the items that users do not remember correctly

This result means there was no downside to dropping items from the practice list once they had been mastered.

Giving hope to stroke survivors

Senior author Dr.Jed Meltzer, Baycrest’s Canada Research Chair in Interventional Cognitive Neuroscience, senior scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute, said:

“Our research suggests that stroke survivors and others living with aphasia can improve their language skills using apps over several months, and can potentially relearn hundreds of words if they practice enough.

“Adaptive language-learning software using spaced repetition appears to be extremely helpful in scaling treatment for stroke survivors and other individuals living with aphasia, ultimately helping to improve their quality of life.”

A follow-up study will see the researchers will evaluate the benefit of app-based practice for general skills, such as short-term memory and attention, in addition to training on relearning specific words, to maximise the degree of recovery possible using adaptive software.

Aphasia Facts

Aphasia affects more than 350,000 people in the UK alone, according to the Stroke Association.

As well as stroke, the condition can be linked to head injury, dementia and brain tumours.

There is no cure. However, with support, people with aphasia can learn to communicate effectively.

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