Scientific title:
Reconstructing sentence processing in aphasia
University College London
Principal investigator:
Professor Rosemary Varley
Grant value:
Research ID:
SA PG 18\100054
Research area:
Start date:
Tuesday 1 January 2019
End date:
Friday 13 October 2023
3 years
Year awarded:


Aphasia (difficulty speaking, reading, writing, or understanding language) affects roughly a third of stroke survivors. Having aphasia can affect a person’s ability to take part in conversations and interact with others.

Our understanding of the difficulties that people with aphasia have with individual words has progressed in recent years. However, our knowledge of the difficulties they have with understanding sentences has not developed as quickly.

This means there has also been less progress in developing therapies to help people with aphasia to understand sentences. This is a problem because every day talking involves sentences, and being able to understand and use sentences is vital for taking part in conversations.

What is the research aiming to do?

This research aims to develop and test a new form of computer-based therapy. The therapy uses everyday sentences of varying lengths and aims to increase participants’ attention to the different parts that make up a sentence. This should help them to understand similar sentences that may come up in everyday conversation.

The research team aim to answer several questions:

  • Does the new therapy improve the understanding and production of everyday sentences?
  • Does combining the therapy with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS – a gentle form of non-invasive brain stimulation) lead to further improvements?
  • Are the effects of the treatment still seen 8 weeks after the therapies have ended?

Participants’ speech will be assessed before they receive the therapy. They will also have a brain scan so that the researchers know where to apply the tDCS. Their speech will be assessed again after they have had the therapy to see if it has had any effect on their language and every day talking.

What difference could this research make?

The researchers hope that the new therapy they develop will have an impact on the everyday communication of people with aphasia. It’s hoped the therapy will allow them to take part in conversations – from understanding to speaking. If the therapy is effective, they hope to make it freely available for others to use.