research study

Research Alert: Brain Stimulation and Aphasia

This new aphasia research is personalization at its best. Rather than treat every brain the same, researchers are designing brain stimulation programs for individuals by using brain scans. They’re mapping how each individual uses their brain when recalling words.

NAA Board Member, Dr. Peter Turkletaub, is involved in a new research study pairing brain stimulation and speech therapy. If this sounds familiar because you watched the Netflix documentary, My Beautiful Broken Brain, it does bear similarities to the therapy Lotje received in the film. Where it differs is the new route of personalization.

About the Study

National Institutes of Health (NIH) has provided funding for the study to Soterix Medical, a biotechnology company working with University of North Carolina and Georgetown University to launch this research.

Each person accepted into the study receives a brain scan that maps the area of the brain the individual is using to find words. That information is then used to design a layout for the electrodes on the scalp so researchers will be stimulating the exact area the person uses for verbal tasks. Every stroke is different and every brain is different, so tailoring the treatment to the individual will hopefully improve therapy results.

Finally, the person with aphasia receives a mild form of electrical brain stimulation called Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) through those electrodes. At the same time, they receive computerized speech therapy designed to improve word finding. This technique is safe enough that researchers can actually go to the study participant’s home rather than holding the treatment in a hospital setting.

Joining the Study

People can still apply to be part of the study. Individuals wishing to be considered can contact researchers in the study through the University of North Carolina or Georgetown University via email or a phone call to see if you qualify.

Elizabeth H. Lacey, PhD
[email protected]

UNC Chapel Hill
Marsha Rodriguez, CCC-SLP
[email protected]

Participants are in the study for three weeks, receiving in-home speech therapy and brain stimulation Monday through Friday.

Of course, this is a randomized controlled study, which means that while everyone gets the speech therapy, some participants will receive the real brain stimulation and some will have the electrodes placed on their heads but not receive the stimulation. Neither the participants nor researchers will know which group they’re in until the end of the study. This way the researchers will know whether this new therapy is valid and helpful, and the role brain stimulation plays in making speech therapy more effective.

Image: used with permission from Peter Turkletaub



  • Paula Ryan
    December 8, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    I have to travel or it can be at my house in Connecticut.

  • Karen Owen
    December 15, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    I would have no trouble going to UC Davis hospital in Sacramento to get hooked up near my home if I’m accepted for this study. My hemorragic stroke happened in Sept. 2013 if I recall correctly.

  • December 19, 2017 at 4:42 am

    Can I do this ?!

  • Gillian Rafferty
    December 19, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    My husband and I live in the UK. It is a desert compared to the US with regard to information about Aphasia. I am struggling to find ways to help my husband and feel I am failing him. He was diagnosed originally as having Alzheimers. Problems with his eye sight ( visual fields problems) prompted the hospital to give him a brain scan which showed that he had had a mini stroke. It was only as his language deteriorated that my brother, a speech therapist suggested that he had Aphasia. Obviously he is aware that he is getting worse. I find it heartbreaking to see him struggle to communicate. How can it be that he knows what he wishes to communicate, but the link of what is in his mind, to the ability to voice it, is somehow missing? I believe that the opportunity to have had beneficial therapy is too late, due to not having been diagnosed early enough.

  • Anonymous
    January 1, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    Gilllian we have gone through the same thing for 4 to 5 years now. He had an MRI which they determined was a degeneration not a plaque. We immediately tried speech therapy for 4 mos 2x a week. When he couldn’t make any more progress insurance quit paying for it and he wouldn’t do the practice exercises at home without the therapist.. Hie progression has been slow but he is now totally frustrated he can’t communicate his wishes on the phone or to his financial institutions and and strangers, everyone has to be patient for him to come up with the right words. It is all inside the head but can’t come out or the wrong words come out. Today he couldn’t relay to me that he needed his insurance paper while he held out the car registration and I couldn’t figure out what he wanted. I would be excited to get into a support group to find ways to handle these situations without getting frustrated myself.
    I feel so bad they can’t communicate what they are thinking.

  • Elaine Force
    February 15, 2018 at 10:03 am

    My daughter had a stroke at 37 years old We Live in Central Florida she had a stroke Late July now has she has Global aphasia
    Right side of her body is paralyzed she’s doing therapy has progressed some with that but at a standstill right now
    Has had speech therapy but a month ago they put it on hold because they say she has plateaued please let me know if she could do this trial thank you Elaine Force

  • Anonymous
    July 22, 2018 at 9:45 am

    I would love to get my daughter into this study. She is in her 50’s and a perfect MRI shows nothing wrong with her brain. Yet she matches perfectly with Anomic Aphasia. Only thing we know is she has had some Post Tramatic Stress in her life. HELP,

  • Anonymous
    September 17, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    My son suffered an ischemic stroke less than 2 years ago at the age of 32. He is young and has a positive outlook on life, however, his inability to communicate frustrates him. His speech therapy sessions have expired with minimal results. Will someone reach out to us to see if he qualifies for the research?

  • Eydie Williams
    November 12, 2018 at 8:18 pm

    I would love and welcome your help. My brother has global aphasia is paralyzed one side can’t speak and gets so angry that he can’t communicate he’s in nursing home gets no therapy I’m his only family please help him he doesn’t leave his room wants to die.

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