Participate in Aphasia Research



What projects are going on now?

Researchers in the Aphasia and Neurolinguistic Research Laboratory at Northwestern University study the neurocognitive mechanisms of normal and disordered language, primarily verb and sentence processing. The goal is to understand how damage to the neural networks that support language (e.g., by stroke or progressive neurological disease processes) impair normal processes involved in language. Researchers also investigate the recovery from aphasia – how the neural networks that support language brain reorganizes after brain injury. The Results have implications for both the basic understanding of brain function, and how the brain recovers from damage. Results of these studies inform new treatment programs for aphasia.

Current studies include:

  • FMRI Investigations of Language Processing. This work uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine how language (primarily verbs and sentences) is processed in the brain. These studies map the neural networks for word and sentence processing in healthy volunteers and chart how these networks are compromised by stroke or other brain disease.
    • Studies with cognitively healthy people include investigations of the neural correlates of complex sentence processing (e.g., sentences with long-distance dependencies) and studies of verb argument structure processing.
    • Studies of neuroplasticity investigate the neural mechanisms of language processing in people with verb and sentence deficits resulting from stroke and progressive neurological disease and how the networks for language recover or decline over time and are influenced by treatment.
  • Studies of normal and disordered sentence processing
    • On-line processing: Tracking Eye Movements. This work uses eyetracking while listening and speaking to investigate how sentences are processed in real time in both cognitively healthy and brain-damaged individuals. We also use eyetracking to examine changes in sentence processing associated with recovery of language in stroke-induced aphasia and decline of language in primary progressive aphasia (PPA).
  • Electrophysiological Studies of Language Processing. This work examines the electrical activity of the brain, using Event Related Potentials (ERPs), associated with language processing in healthy and aphasic individuals.
  • Studies Examining Language Recovery in Stroke-Induced Aphasia
    • We study how language recovers in people with stroke-induced aphasia, charting changes in verb and sentence processing over time under treatment versus no-treatment conditions. People with aphasia are trained to produce and understand certain sentence structures and generalization to other linguistically related structures is examined. Neurocognitive correlates of recovery are charted over time.
    • Computerized treatment for sentence deficits. Based the findings of our studies examining the effects of treatment for sentence comprehension and production, we develop and test computer automated systems for delivery of treatment.
  • Biomarkers of Language Recovery
    • Studies use advanced neuroimaging techniques, including diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), perfusion imaging, resting state and functional connectivity analysis, and other methods to study factors related to language recovery. This work is conducted as part of the Center for the Neurobiology of Language Recovery, in collaboration with Drs. Todd Parrish (neurophysicist at Northwestern University), David Caplan (Massachusettes General Hospital), Swathi Kiran (Boston University), and Brenda Rapp (Johns Hopkins).
  • Language Decline in Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA).
    • This project examines word and sentence production and comprehension in PPA, using both off-line and on-line methods (e.g., eyetracking studies) to track language decline in PPA. We also study the effects of behavioral treatment (including repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) on language processing. This work is conducted in collaboration with Drs. Marsel Mesulam, Sandra Weintraub, and Emily Rogalski.


How can I become involved in participating in research projects in the Aphasia and Neurolinguistics Research Laboratory?

If you are interested in participating in our studies, please email or call us at: or 847-467-7591. We will set up an appointment for a visit and/or address any of your questions or concerns.

What happens when I participate in research in the Aphasia and Neurolinguistics Research Laboratory?

A comprehensive evaluation of your language abilities is provided in order to determine eligibility for our treatment studies. Enrolled individuals receive treatment focused on their language impairment. Usually, treatment sessions are two times a week. For some studies, participants receive intensive treatment on a daily basis. Many volunteers also participate in pre- and post-treatment eyetracking and fMRI scans to provide even more information about the nature of their aphasia and the effects of treatment.

Can I participate in research in the Aphasia and Neurolinguistics Research Laboratory if I do not have aphasia?

In order to help us understand how language is processed in the brain we invite volunteers of all ages, without brain damage or language impairment, to participate in our studies. Volunteers may be financially compensated for their time.