The Striking Benefits of Training Speed and Accuracy of Word Retrieval in Post-Stroke Aphasia

Adults are able to utter about 120 words per minute and may make a speech error once out of every thousand words. If an adult experiences a stroke, they may develop a condition known as aphasia, which greatly reduces their ability to produce and understand language. Sometimes, people with aphasia may substitute words that are close to what they would like to say because they are unable to retrieve the right words. An untapped method of speech therapy is speed and accuracy training, which focuses on improving a client’s ability to speak more words and reduce speech errors. In this blog post, we discuss the striking benefits of speed and accuracy training for word retrieval in post-stroke aphasia.

In a study of 20 participants with post-stroke aphasia, researchers hypothesized that participants who received therapy that emphasized not only accuracy of word retrieval, but speed, would lead to faster naming and retrieval of words in speech in comparison to standard accuracy work and no treatment alone. The speed and accuracy intervention was done by having participants name pictures of nouns in increasingly smaller windows of time. If a participant made an error, the participant would repeat the correct word three times. Participants cycled through naming items three times per session. 

When comparing the speed and accuracy intervention to standard accuracy training, participants who underwent the speech and accuracy intervention performed more accurately, improved their naming speed, and made better use of their target vocabulary one week and one month later as assessed by neuropsychological language assessments. Researchers observed that participants with mild impairment experienced a ceiling effect when assessed for speech production and patients with more severe impairment were able to make dramatic improvements. Nonetheless, patients with language impairments from stroke were able to improve the speed and accuracy of their speaking ability resulting from this speed and accuracy intervention. 

Often, therapists emphasize the accuracy of speech rather than the combination of both speech and accuracy. Working on speed and accuracy in regards to speech may help clients increase participation in social and workplace settings. Language disabilities like aphasia deter many people with stroke from interacting with others, as these impairments cause people to become frustrated or feel embarrassed when they cannot say what they would like to say. By working with clients on their speech and accuracy of word retrieval, therapists may be able to help their clients integrate new words into their vocabulary and speak more effectively than just by working on word retrieval accuracy alone. 

Conroy, P., Sotiropoulou Drosopoulou, C., Humphreys, G. F., Halai, A. D., & Lambon Ralph, M. A. (2018). Time for a quick word? The striking benefits of training speed and accuracy of word retrieval in post-stroke aphasia. Brain, 141(6), 1815-1827.
Dustin Luchmee

Dustin was HappyNeuron's Product Specialist. With research experience in stroke, Dustin learned how a stroke can change someone's life. He also learned how different kinds of therapists can work together to help a person get better. He is passionate about neuro-rehabilitation and finding the active ingredients for effective therapy.

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