"It's a matter of 'use it or lose it,'" Thompson says. "The brain has the capacity to learn and relearn throughout life, and it is directly affected by the activities we engage in. Language training that focuses on principles of normal language processing stimulates the recovery of neural networks that support language."
Thompson will discuss research she will conduct as principal investigator of a $12 million National Institutes of Health Clinical Research Center award to study biomarkers of recovery in aphasia.
Working with investigators from a number of universities, Thompson will explore the role blood flow plays in language recovery in chronic stroke patients. In addition, she will conduct cutting-edge, exploratory research using eye tracking to understand how people compute language as they hear it in real time. Eye-tracking techniques have been found to discern subtle problems underlying language deficits in acquired aphasia.
In a landmark 2010 study, she and colleagues discovered two critical variables related to understanding brain damage recovery. They found that stroke not only results in cell death in certain regions of the brain but that it also decreases blood flow (perfusion) to living cells that are adjacent (and sometimes even distant) to the lesion.
Until that study, hypoperfusion (diminished blood flow) was thought only to be associated with acute stroke. Her team also found that greater hypoperfusion led to poorer recovery.
|Contact: Wendy Leopold|