Announcing New Recent Award Recipients – T. Simic, PhD and K. Washington, PhD

Tijana Simic, PhD

2022-23 Connaught New Researcher Award 

Project title: Executive control in post-stroke aphasia: do verbal load and inner speech play a role?

Executive control (EC) is a set of mental processes that help us face novel situations and perform goal-oriented tasks. EC appears to be recruited when the language system is damaged and can be an important predictor of long-term language treatment success in those with post-stroke aphasia.  However, a certain level of language ability is required to complete EC tasks, and it remains unclear how language difficulties associated with aphasia impact performance on these tasks. Further, research on healthy controls demonstrates that self-directed language, or inner speech (i.e., the little voice in one’s head), assists with completing EC tasks, and that individuals with aphasia have varying inner speech abilities. This project aims to investigate whether the verbal requirements of EC tasks can influence EC performance in those with post-stroke aphasia, and to determine whether inner speech can assist with EC performance in this population. Findings from this work may lead to the development of a reliable battery of EC tasks which can be ranked by linguistic processing demand and assist with removing linguistic barriers in clinical contexts. In addition, this work will shed light on the nature of inner speech in those with aphasia, and how it compares to overt speech production ability.


Karla Washington, PhD

Neuroimaging Reveals Treatment-Related Changes in DLD: A Randomized Controlled Trial (parent award, Renewal)

National Institutes of Health (NIH) – National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)

Children with developmental language disorders (DLD, aka specific language impairment), a prevalent pediatric disorder, experience hallmark grammar deficits with life-long impacts on educational and occupational outcomes.   While effective and early interventions can mitigate the impact of DLD, not enough is known about the neural basis of DLD in young children, yet is needed to inform the design of more individualized interventions. This project uses neuroimaging, along with behavioral methods, with the goal of better understanding the memory-language mechanisms that underlie grammar learning and impairment, while also considering their association to treatment-related changes in preschoolers with DLD. 


Neuroimaging Reveals Treatment-Related Changes in DLD: A Randomized Controlled Trial (Administrative Supplement for Tackling Acquisition of Language in Kids – TALK Initiative)


CO-Is: Hanen Centre (co-I Elaine Weitzman) and Holland Bloorview (co-I Deryk Beal)

The TALK Initiative has provided a unique opportunity to ask questions about late talking that relate to the parent grant, now entering its 3rd year. Late talkers (LT) are a clinical group of children under 3-years old, who share similarities in their language delays with DLD, a known pediatric disorder with long-term and negative impacts on academic and occupational outcomes. The emphasis of the parent grant on the neural basis of grammar learning and impairment in preschool DLD necessitated exclusion of LT who are defined using similar criteria to DLD, but for clinical purposes are assigned different labels. Since LT often show differences in skills (e.g., grammar) in their preschool years to that of TD peers, even after meeting age expectations, support for the notion of illusionary recovery exists along with the need for retooling our understanding of late talking, including intervention outcomes. The proposed research aims are to (a) establish differences in structural connectivity between regions predicted by the procedural circuit deficit hypothesis (PDH; Ullman & Pierpont, 2005; Ullman et al., 2020) for LT compared to TD peers; and (b) establish the neurobiological basis of treatment-related changes in LT. These aims relate to Aims 1 and 2, respectively, of the parent award, offering the opportunity for a neuroscientific description of LT and for comparing LT to a similar, but later diagnosed clinical group, DLD