Graphic of a face in profile with a question mark coming out of the mouth

How does rehabilitation affect outcomes in people with aphasia after stroke?


Researchers from Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital describe a research protocol for defining the trajectories of linguistic, cognitive-communicative and health related quality of life outcomes after stroke in people with aphasia. Their protocol is published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

The protocol will be used to advance research funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders to study the benefits of inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation for stroke patients with aphasia. 

“Following people with aphasia for 18 months after admission to inpatient rehabilitation will provide a wealth of data about the many factors that impact recovery and rehabilitation outcomes,” says Leora Cherney, PhD, scientific chair, Think + Speak Lab, and director, Center for Aphasia Research and Treatment at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and corresponding author on the paper.

The research is led by Cherney together with Allen Heinemann, PhD, director, Center for Rehabilitation Outcomes Research at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.

Aphasia impairs the ability to process and understand language, including speaking, reading and writing, while leaving intelligence unaffected. The condition most commonly accompanies stroke, but also is seen in the aftermath of a wide range of neurological conditions, including brain tumors and traumatic brain injury. Among people who have had a stroke, approximately one-third experience aphasia. While the National Institutes of Health estimates that one million Americans have the condition, many experts agree this number is much higher.

Many stroke survivors with aphasia receive therapy in inpatient rehabilitation facilities. However, aphasia recovery is variable and there is limited evidence on how inpatient rehabilitation and other forms of treatment contribute to the outcomes of patients. 

The researchers will identify individual differences in patterns of recovery based on variations in personal, genetic, imaging, and therapy characteristics and develop models that will provide an unparalleled representation of recovery from aphasia resulting from stroke. 

“An improved understanding of recovery will enable clinicians to better tailor and plan rehabilitation therapies to individual patient's needs,” says Heinemann.

Allan Kozlowski, PhD, of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital; Andrea Domenighetti, PhD and Marwan Baliki, PhD of Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and Mary Kwasny, ScD of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine are co-authors on the paper.

This research was funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (grant R01 DC017174-01A1). NUCATS is funded in part by a National Institutes of Health Clinical and Translational Science Award (grant UL1TR001422).