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Neuro-rehab word game research

BCHC patients whose ability to speak or understand speech has been impaired following a stroke or brain injury have taken part in research exploring the rehabilitation potential of team games which target word production.

Aphasia is a chronic and often life-changing disorder that affects a person’s ability to speak and/or comprehend speech after a stroke or head injury.

Twelve people who have aphasia – 10 who attended the Moor Green outpatient brain injury unit at Moseley Hall Hospital plus two from other community-based services – took part in the study, in which they were encouraged to work in teams to name pictures of familiar objects and actions, promoting improved production of key vocabulary.

word production game aphasia research group
Louise Lander (second from right) playing the word production game with patients at the Moor Green neuro-rehab outpatient unit at Moseley Hall Hospital.

The study concluded that embedding techniques for aphasia rehabilitation in games with a strong social dimension has the potential to promote linguistic rehabilitation as an alternative to high intensity one-to-one rehabilitation therapy in a way that is both engaging and efficient, in terms of time and cost.

Speech and language therapist Louise Lander led the clinical study with research partners at Aston University and the University of Birmingham.

 “In order for aphasia therapy to be effective, it usually needs to be delivered at the right intensity, but it can be difficult for NHS services to provide this,” she said.

“The expectation was that, as well as producing language improvements, it would be fun, confidence-building, motivating and cost effective, since games can be carried out by a group of patients, supervised by a single therapist, thus reducing demands on professional time.

“We specifically targeted word production difficulties, but there is no reason why a similar approach based on social/team games couldn’t be extended to other aspects of language – sentence production, for example, and thus become appropriate for people with aphasia with a wider set of needs.”

Louise explained that the ‘game therapy’ approach could be tailored for individual needs, alongside one-to-one therapy.

“We’re not advocating that ‘game therapy’ should substitute for one-to-one therapy delivered by professional speech and language therapists,” she said.

“However, it can be a valuable means of increasing practice, allowing patients to work in areas of special difficulty, to consolidate gains and to enjoy social interactions in a safe and supportive environment.”