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Arnold School of Public Health

Roozbeh Behroozmand receives $3.6 million from NIH to enhance research on brain damage and speech impairment

January 13, 2021 | Erin Bluvas,

With renewed support from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, UofSC associate professor Roozbeh Behroozmand will continue his study on how brain damage causes speech impairment in stroke survivors with aphasia (i.e., a communication disorder that impacts the ability to produce and understand speech). He will use the five-year R01 grant of nearly $3.6 million to extend an existing K01 project by incorporating advanced MRI neuroimaging and neurophysiology data to take a closer look at brain networks implicated in speech processing and their impaired function in post-stroke aphasia. The new project also aims to examine the effect of speech training on enhancing communication ability in affected individuals. 

“Aphasia affects nearly 30 percent of stroke survivors and is the leading cause of communication disability in the United States,” Behroozmand says. “This condition poses a significant barrier to participation in professional, social and family activities, and has a huge negative impact on overall quality of life.”

As a member of the growing group of neurogenic disorder experts in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (COMD), Behroozmand is involved in many projects aimed at improving the lives of those who live with aphasia. He is affiliated with the Center for the Study of Aphasia Recovery (C-STAR), Aphasia Lab, and the Aging Brain Cohort – all of which are led by Behroozmand’s mentor, COMD professor Julius Fridriksson, who will also serve as a co-investigator on the current study.

Among these and other overlapping, collaborative groups, including his own Speech Neuroscience Lab, Behroozmand’s specialty is the study of the neural mechanisms in the human speech production system. He leverages his biomedical engineering background, Ph.D. in COMD (Northwestern University), postdoctoral research in neurosurgery (University of Iowa School of Medicine), and six years of research at the Arnold School to develop novel diagnosis and clinical treatment methods to enhance speech communication in aphasia. 

“Although speech therapy can improve communicative function for aphasia, most stroke survivors never fully recover and are left with life-long disability,” Behroozmand says. “In order to better address this public health challenge, we need to understand the neural bases of speech disorders to offer treatments that maximize speech rehabilitation outcomes.”

Approximately one million Americans currently live with aphasia, with 180,000 more individuals diagnosed each year. These numbers are expected to rise as life expectancy increases and improvements in life-saving procedures decrease mortality rates from stroke.

“Traditional aphasia treatments focus on enhancing motor output – or sound/word production – but research by our team and others indicates that auditory feedback also plays a critical role in fluent speech,” Behroozmand says. “This new project will help us better understand how deficits in auditory feedback processing cause speech impairment and how this knowledge can be translated to tailored treatments for individuals with aphasia and other neurological conditions.”  


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COMD’s Roozbeh Behroozmand receives $700K from NIH to study how brain damage causes speech impairment in stroke survivors with aphasia

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