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NIDCD Highlights

NIDCD Establishes New Center for Aphasia Research

The NIDCD recently awarded a five-year, $12 million clinical research center grant to Northwestern University in Chicago to establish the Center for the Neurobiology of Language Recovery, a multidisciplinary, multi-institute program devoted to research on aphasia.

Aphasia is a communication disorder that impairs the expression and understanding of language, reading, and writing. It can occur after a stroke or other brain injury. More than a million people in the United States currently have aphasia and, according to the National Aphasia Association, an additional 100,000 Americans every year acquire aphasia from strokes and other causes.

The new center is led by Cynthia Thompson, Ph.D., the Jean and Ralph Sundin professor of communication sciences at Northwestern University. Dr. Thompson’s work focuses on brain plasticity and language recovery in people with aphasia, particularly those with agrammatic aphasia, which affects the ability to understand and produce sentences.

The Center is also supporting related projects at Harvard University, Boston University, and The Johns Hopkins University.

Work from all four projects will be used to design and test new treatments. The researchers plan to enroll into studies more than 200 people with aphasia and expect to generate a large database of results for other researchers in the field to use. A major focus of the Center will be identifying biomarkers of recovery—whether imaging parameters such as blood flow to the brain or brain activity while at rest can help predict who will eventually regain their communication abilities.

"The collaboration among these multidisciplinary teams will serve as a national resource for aphasia research, which could significantly accelerate the scientific discoveries that will lead to better treatment for the thousands of people who develop the condition each year," says Judith A. Cooper, Ph.D., deputy director of the NIDCD. "It is critical to have an improved understanding and find better treatment modalities."

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