The Tavistock Trust for Aphasia has named Sameer Ashaie, PhD, research scientist II, Center for Aphasia Research and Treatment, as a recipient of its Distinguished Scholar Awards for 2022.
Dr. Ashaie is one of four recipients of this year’s awards, presented to early career aphasia researchers who demonstrate scholarly excellence and pioneering research on aphasia. The Tavistock Trust for Aphasia is the United Kingdom’s only charitable organization exclusively dedicated to improving quality of life for people with aphasia and their families and caregivers.
Dr. Ashaie was selected for this honor for his unique research using eye-tracking and heartrate measurements to track depression and mood in people aphasia.
“There is a high incidence of depression in stroke patients, but it often goes undiagnosed in people with aphasia,” said Leora Cherney, PhD, director, Center for Aphasia Research and Treatment. “Most measures of depression require responses to complex written questions and conversations with a mental health professional.”
“However, since people with aphasia have varying levels of impairment in language comprehension or production, it is really difficult for them to describe their inner feelings using language,” said Dr. Ashaie. “One of my aims is to figure out a way to assess depression with inexpensive, but accurate, tools that could eventually be employed in the clinical setting.”
To accomplish this assessment without use of written or spoken language, Dr. Ashaie uses eye-tracking to identify what patients prefer to look at — individuals with depression tend to be attracted to images of sad faces over happy faces. He also uses heartrate monitoring to identify variability of heartbeats — another indicator of depression.
“If depression can be identified, then it can be treated, thereby improving the quality of life for the person with aphasia,” said Dr. Cherney.
Dr. Ashaie joined SRAlab as a post-doctoral fellow in 2016, was hired as a research scientist in 2020, and was promoted to research scientist II in 2021.
Also receiving Distinguished Scholar Awards for 2022 is Jaime Lee, PhD, a former doctoral student and post-doctoral researcher in the Center for Aphasia Research and Treatment, who continues her affiliation with the center through a grant.