LAS CRUCES – One of the most frustrating effects of a stroke is the inability to use, produce and comprehend language, also known as aphasia. Many aphasia sufferers become anxious and frustrated with not being able to communicate and understand others like they did before their stroke.
Bijoyaa Mohapatra, an assistant professor in communication disorders at New Mexico State University, wants to better understand how to treat aphasia with behavioral neurocardiac intervention and if it can improve specific moods such as stress and anxiety, as well as cognitive functions such as attention and memory.
Mohapatra, who recently received funding from the NMSU College of Education’s Emerging Scholars initiative for her research, said she will study if the effects of neurocardiac training can improve overall quality of life in stroke patients. According to the National Aphasia Association, stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Out of 750,000 strokes occurring each year, approximately one-third of strokes result in aphasia, which is caused by damage to areas of the brain produced by stroke.
Most people with aphasia also have associated mood and emotional problems that significantly impede their language, attention and memory functions.
“Our study will utilize a computer-based biofeedback training system to train slow breathing maneuvers and monitor cardiac variations,” Mohapatra said. “If positive changes in mood, language and cognitive abilities are observed in these individuals after intervention, it will support the proposition that biofeedback training can effectively treat these core deficits that are commonly seen in brain-damaged individuals. This project will lay the groundwork for future large-scale biofeedback intervention programs for professionals in the field of communication sciences and disorders.”
The study will begin this summer, and Mohapatra has enlisted the help of graduate research assistant Tanya Bautista Manzanares, who is studying communication disorders.
“At first I was hesitant to become a research assistant because of my lack of experience, but after a while I realized I was gaining a lot of invaluable skills,” Bautista Manzanares said. “I’ve been working on improving my writing ability, data collection and working in a team environment. Working on this research has also helped me develop ideas for my thesis.”
Mohapatra said she plans on reaching out to stroke survivor support groups in Las Cruces and El Paso to recruit people to participate in the study.
“This biofeedback intervention is a promising new treatment and more economical alternative to expensive neurofeedback interventions in stroke and aphasia,” Mohapatra said. “It has potential for use in clinical practice as a supplement to traditional speech-language therapy.”
Mohapatra said her study is just one example of all the important research going on in the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders.
“Research projects such as this not only demonstrate the potential of the research faculty within the department but also their ability to integrate and conduct interdisciplinary research work,” Mohapatra said.
To learn more about participating in the study, contact Mohapatra at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.