Natascha is a PhD student at Radboud University and the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior. She first came to Nijmegen in 2015 as an Erasmus student from Frankfurt in Germany, where she studied a Bachelor of Linguistics. Once aware of the vast ongoing research on language and the brain in Nijmegen she has stayed ever since. She proceeded with a master in cognitive neuroscience and started her PhD in the language function and dysfunction group in September 2019. Her project aims at investigating the recovery of language functions after stroke as well as virtually induced lesions through brain stimulation.
Next to doing research Natascha loves dancing and running and is coach of a teen show dance team. In May 2020 she became a mom to then 8 weeks old Benni, a beautiful and loving great swiss mountain dog. This has certainly turned her life upside down and added many daily hours spent on dog training and walking in the nature.
About 25–40% of people who suffer a stroke have difficulties with one or more aspects of communication—e.g., speaking, understanding, writing, or reading. This is what is called aphasia. About 80% of aphasia cases result from stroke. Aphasia mostly occurs after a stroke on the left side of the brain, where language is mostly located. However, even when critical areas have irreversible damage, patients recover some or even all of their language and communication abilities. How could research help these patients to improve their communication abilities?
As we saw in part one of the article on the topic of aphasia, even though different types of communication disorders exist, some symptoms tend to overlap. In part two, we will examine how clinicians diagnose speech and communication disorders and which factors influence the recovery for diagnosed patients. Here the focus lies on patients who have been admitted to hospital with some kind of neurological damage, such as stroke. In these cases, the language impairments are only a side effect of the actual medical diagnosis and not the reason for seeing a neurologist. In these situations, patients’ language difficulties can be easily overlooked during treatment.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you wanted to say something, but simply could not find the words you were looking for? This might happen when speaking a foreign language, in which you are not (yet) very proficient. However, this can also happen in your native language, for example when you are distracted or tired. Most of us have probably already experienced such or similar situations with temporary communication difficulties. Luckily, these are usually just short-lasting moments, and we manage to find the right words eventually.