Dog-training Program May Benefit People With Aphasia

People with post-stroke aphasia have difficulty recalling words, and may also struggle putting words together into grammatically correct sentences or understanding what is said to them.

However – and perhaps because of – their language impairment, these people often excel at pragmatic communication, using facial expression, tone of voice, and body language, all types of communication to which animals respond more readily than the spoken word. This proficiency makes them ideal candidates for learning and implementing dog-training techniques.

In this video, Sharon Antonucci, PhD, director of the MossRehab Aphasia Center, talks about the Center’s pilot program to teach people with aphasia techniques for training their pets as a means of benefiting the patients themselves. Continue Reading


Creating a Path to Improved Naming in People with Aphasia

Aphasia can be quite frustrating  for people who struggle to communicate. In addition to naming difficulties, some people with aphasia experience comprehension impairment, where hearing or reading the name of an object conveys the wrong image or meaning.

Erica Middleton, PhD, has been studying naming problems for eight years. Her last six years have been spent researching how people with aphasia can relearn and comprehend names, first as a Post-Doc at Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute (MRRI), and now as the Institute Scientist leading MRRI’s Language and Learning Laboratory.

In this video, Dr. Middleton talks about a five year, $2.4 million grant she received from the National Institutes of Health that will lead to a theory of learning needed to advance aphasia rehabilitation.


Developing a Rehab Treatment Specification System

For more than a decade, researchers and clinicians in the field of rehabilitation have been searching for an answer to the black box problem—that is, the field’s inability so far to characterize and ultimately classify rehabilitation treatments according to useful, operational definitions that focus on their active ingredients.

In 2014, researchers at the Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute (MRRI), together with Marcel Dijkers, PhD and colleagues at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, introduced an early framework for this process, called the Rehabilitation Treatment Taxonomy (RTT). Continue Reading


Creating a ‘Yardstick’ for Measuring Progress in Rehab

In physical medicine and rehabilitation, doctors and therapists generally measure progress using the Functional Improvement Measurement (FIM)™ – a widely accepted scale designed to gauge the functional abilities of patients undergoing rehabilitation.

The problem, according to John Whyte, MD, PhD, director of the Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute, is that the FIM score doesn’t provide enough detail to distinguish between patients throughout the entire process of rehabilitation.

In this video, Dr. Whyte talks about his project to develop a more effective means of measuring patient progress. Continue Reading


Buxbaum, Colleagues Publish Study on Phantom Limb Pain

Standard treatment generally doesn’t provide relief for people with amputations who experience phantom limb pain. However, research on the use of virtual reality has recently shown promise for this new approach.

Laurel J. Buxbaum, PsyD, associate director of MRRI, and colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania and the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, in Stuttgart, Germany, recently published research about the use of immersive low-cost virtual reality treatment for the treatment of phantom limb pain. Continue Reading


Myrna Schwartz Appears on Aphasia Access Podcast

Myrna F. Schwartz, PhD

Myrna F. Schwartz, PhD

Mryna Schwartz, PhD, co-founder of the Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute, recently discussed best practices in aphasia care as part of the Aphasia Access Conversations podcast series.

In a conversation with Janet Patterson, PhD, Dr. Schwartz discussed the role of ethics and institutional review in clinical research activities that involve people with aphasia.

Dr. Schwartz headed MRRI’s Language and Aphasia Laboratory for many years.


Better Defining Medical Rehabilitation Treatments

When a doctor prescribes medical rehabilitation for a patient he or she often describes it in terms of time length (12 weeks), the institution where it will occur or the type of rehab – (physical therapy vs. gait training, etc.). None of that specifies what the therapist is actually expected to do. In this video, John Whyte, MD, PhD, founding director of the Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute, discusses his research on defining the active ingredients that need to be part of the therapeutic process. Continue Reading


Evaluating Aphasia Conversation Groups

The MossRehab Aphasia Center was founded over 20 years ago to meet the long-term communication and psychosocial needs of individuals who have been affected by aphasia. Over the years, conversation groups have become a core component of the activities the Center offers to people with aphasia.

In the Constance Sheerr Kittner Conversation Cafes, members have the opportunity to have their voices heard in a supportive environment. Adult conversation and social interaction are encouraged, with all group members engaging in communication strategies.

Recently, the Aphasia Center began a research project into measuring the effectiveness of these conversation groups.

In this video, Aphasia Center Director Sharon Antonucci, PhD, CCC-SLP, discusses the project, which focuses on finding the best metrics for tracking success among participants in this group.



Dr. Rabinowitz to Study Causes of Depression in Brain Injury

Amanda Rabinowitz, PhD, director of the Brain Injury Neuropsychology Laboratory at the Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute (MRRI), has received funding to research depression in people who have sustained traumatic brain injury (TBI). Specifically, she and her team are hoping to understand whether depression or a lack of participation in one’s usual activities comes first—what Rabinowitz refers to as a “chicken-or-the-egg” problem.

The $93,000 grant was awarded by the National Institutes of Health.

“We know that people with TBI may not be able to participate in their regular activities and experience the sense of reward that comes from them,” says Dr. Rabinowitz. “And this may lead to depression. However, people who become depressed first may also disengage from their usual activities. So our question is which one of the mechanisms is causing the other?” Continue Reading