Language Sciences Lab

Research in Elizabeth Rochon’s lab is a team effort. Together, her team is transforming lives of people living with aphasia and dementia. Their trailblazing work on therapies for stroke and neurodegenerative diseases is receiving world-wide attention.

Overview of Research Program

Research studies in Dr. Rochon’s lab focus on investigating language and communication impairments found in adults with brain damage in order to better understand the underlying nature and course of disease and associated neural underpinnings in such conditions as stroke and dementia, as well as to elucidate theoretical models of language processing.  A related focus is the development and testing of treatment interventions for the language and communication difficulties found in the populations mentioned above.

Ongoing studies in Dr. Rochon’s lab are designed to better characterize the nature and extent of language comprehension and production impairments in Alzheimer’s disease and primary progressive aphasia (PPA).  In a longitudinal study that is investigating the nature of the connected speech impairment in PPA, Dr. Rochon and collaborators (S. Black, N. Graham, C. Leonard, M. Freedman, T. Chow, D. Tang-Wai, B. Levine) are also using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and diffusion tenser imaging (DTI) to examine typical patterns of progression of pathology in the brain and to specify further the abnormalities that characterize the syndromes.  With students and collaborators (R.Jokel, J, Cupit, C. Leonard, N. Anderson), this lab has also published some of the first studies to investigate the feasibility of speech-language interventions for individuals with primary progressive aphasia.


Other work involves the development and the assessment of new treatments for language impairments for individuals who have aphasia following a stroke. In addition to addressing questions of efficacy and effectiveness, this work also addresses questions of brain-behaviour relationships and neuroplasticity.  For example, in a one ongoing study Dr. Rochon and collaborators (C. Leonard, L. Laird, K. Marcotte, C. Grady, S. Graham, J. Meltzer) are using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), to investigate the neural processing characteristics associated with changes in naming performance as a function of different treatment intensity regimens for naming impairments in aphasia.  In another ongoing study (C. Leonard, L. Laird), delivery of internet-based aphasia therapy is being piloted in order to determine the efficacy of remotely delivered treatment.


Another focus is on interprofessional approaches to communication intervention. This includes collaborating on projects related to research aimed at implementing interventions to optimize communication between professional caregivers and institutionalized individuals with communication difficulties such as those with dementia and individuals who have had a stroke (K. McGilton, M. Fox, S. Sidani, R. Sorin-Peters). Yet another area of research is to determine what the optimal verbal and nonverbal cues are that enable individuals with Alzheimer’s disease to carry out activities of daily living in order to help inform clinical practice and also to inform programming of remotely controlled sensor programs (R. Wilson, A. Mihailidis, C. Leonard).


All of these projects are carried out with a large, multidisciplinary group of collaborators, postdoctoral fellows, students, research staff and volunteers.

Current research projects are funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (HSFC) and the Heart and Stroke Foundation Centre for Stroke Recovery (HSFCSR).