Brent Archer's Laboratory

Psycholinguistic approaches to aphasia therapy

People who survive brain damage (stroke, head injury) may develop aphasia, a language processing disorder which affects communication. Speech-language pathologists are often called upon to provide rehabilitation services to people with aphasia. Current research topics within this area include analysis of some of the variables which impact therapy delivery: which clients benefit most from therapy? Can we accurately predict prognostic outcomes for clients? Which language modalities should SLPs target during therapy? How should psycholinguistic exercise within therapy sessions be structured in order to assure optimal use of resources such as time and funding? How can clinicians use defensible statistical methods to track client performance over time, and demonstrate the efficacy or otherwise of intervention?

Social approaches to aphasia therapy

Aside from being a language disorder, aphasia may impact a wide variety of psychosocial constructs such as identity, social integration and quality of life. Socially-oriented aphasiologists seek to develop a better understanding of the long-term experiences of people and families living with aphasia. To generate robust findings germane to this field, scholars often employ qualitative methods of enquiry including interactional phenomenological analysis (IPA), ethnography, Systemic Functional Linguistics and Conversation Analysis (CA). By adopting a holistic perspectives, researchers hope to furnish clinicians and clients with strategies and ideas that may help people with aphasia (re)gain a new, more agentive sense of self. This paradigm views participation in conversation in a variety of contexts as an essential part of the human condition, and therefore attempts to find ways in which people with aphasia can be supported to take part in such conversations, in spite of their linguistic processing deficits.

Dysphagia: quantitative and qualitative investigations

Swallowing disorders commonly occur in people who have suffered a neurogenic injury. Moreover, neurotypicals may display evidence of dysphagia as they age. Currently, speech-language pathologists rely on a limited range of clinical tools when providing services to people with swallowing disorders. In order to address this situation, more rigorous research is required. Firstly, investigations grounded in the latest models of exercise physiology will help SLPs better understand how to address the mechanical disorders of swallowing they encounter in clinical practice. Secondly, qualitative enquiry traditions will help SLPs to develop a clearer picture of how people with dysphagia view their disability, which will in turn empower us to focus on the psychosocial aspects of this disorder.

Using distributed models of human cognition to guide intervention for cognito-communicative disorders

Research by ethnographers and anthropologists suggests that we are adept problem solvers and can effectively carry out a wide range of complex tasks because the cognitive load associated with activities are distributed amongst human actors and external devices. By applying the results and methods developed during systematic, real-world based studies of human cognition to clinical disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and other amnestic deficits, therapists may gain useful insights into embedded intervention approaches that will empower clients to live with greater independence.