Researchers from Northwestern University’s Center for Education in Health Sciences and the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders studied therapeutic effects of a computer-based application for self-managed practice of verbal naming in two persons with moderate chronic aphasia. Flashcard software was used to present either a drawing or a written description of a target noun, which users would attempt to name, after which they turned the flashcard over where the drawing was coupled with spoken audio of the target word. For some target words, only a single drawing was used, a condition labeled ‘low exemplar variability’; for others, drawings were deliberately varied, a condition labeled ‘high exemplar variability’. Users then indicated whether or not they had correctly produced the name before turning over the flashcard, which algorithmically altered subsequent practice patterns – failure temporarily increasing frequency of target word practice, success decreasing it. The goals of the investigators were to test two predictions: first, that this approach will lead to efficient acquisition, retention, and generalization of more words than generally reported in studies of anomia treatment; and second, that high stimulus variability will lead to greater generalization of target words to picture stimuli not previously seen.
Two persons with moderate chronic aphasia passed criteria for participation and were enrolled in the study. These completed a 12 week course of self-managed practice using the computer-based software, working to acquire a total of 120 target words in the various conditions. Each participant was probed during 3 baseline sessions, 12 weekly treatment sessions, and in 3 tollow-up session at 1 week, 1 month, and 3 months post-treatment.
The researchers’ two predictions were borne out. Post-practice, Participant 1 accurately produced] 77 of 120 words when presented with the pictures used in training, and 63 words when presented with unfamiliar pictures. For Participant 2, the analogous numbers were ~ 57 and ~ 48 respectively. These numbers are all greater than the mean of total stimuli – 47 – in prior published studies of anomia treatment. The authors draw attention to their use of flashcard software available for public use at no charge, which helps lower application costs. An issue for future software to address is eliminating the need for self-reports of success properly to modulate stimulus presentation patterns.
For further reading: Y. M. Quique, R. Cavanaugh, E. Lescht, & W. S. Evans. 2022. Applying adaptive distributed practice to self-managed computer-based anomia treatment: a single-case experimental design. Journal of Communication Disorders, 99, 16 pp. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcomdis.2022.106249