Mack colloquium Friday November 12 at 3:30

Jennifer Mack (Department of Communication Disorders and Graduate Program in Neuroscience and Behavior, UMass Amherst) will present “Comprehending speakers with aphasia: What are the effects of aphasia education?” in the Linguistics colloquium series at 3:30 Friday November 12, in ILC S331. An abstract follows. All are welcome!

Aphasia is a language disability caused by damage to the brain (most commonly a stroke) that affects over 2 million people in the US, resulting in difficulty in communicating one’s thoughts even though intelligence remains intact. Despite the prevalence and societal impacts of aphasia, fewer than 10% of US adults know what aphasia is. Many people with aphasia (PWA) find low public knowledge of aphasia to be one of the most challenging aspects of living with aphasia, and a substantial barrier to communicating successfully. However, no research has examined the effects of education about aphasia on the ability to communicate successfully with PWA. In this talk, I will discuss a new line of research investigating the effects of aphasia education on non-aphasic listeners’ comprehension of speakers with aphasia. First, I will synthesize two relevant lines of prior research: (1) the communication disorders literature on how education of listeners impacts their perception of speakers with communication disabilities and (2) the psycholinguistic literature examining how language comprehension adapts to atypical speech/language input. Then, I will present preliminary results from an eye-tracking experiment testing whether aphasia education impacts listeners’ online comprehension of a speaker with aphasia. Finally, I will discuss potential implications of this work for aphasia education campaigns as well as understanding how the language comprehension system adapts to neurologically diverse speakers.