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Using novel discourse treatment to improve communication in people with aphasia

June 17, 2024
City University London
A new study has found that a novel discourse treatment improved the communication abilities of people with aphasia, a language disorder commonly resulting from stroke.

Aphasia is a condition that affects a quarter of stroke survivors. It impairs communication abilities, including speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Aphasia can have a profound impact on social relationships, employment, and overall quality of life.

In current UK practice, 90% of speech and language therapists acknowledge the importance of discourse assessment and treatment. However, they face considerable barriers such as limited resources, time, and expertise. Addressing this critical need, the Language Underpins Narrative in Aphasia (LUNA) intervention used in the study offers a multi-level approach targeting words, sentences, and discourse macrostructure through personalised narratives. This aligns more closely with real-life communication needs.

The study, which was led by Professors Madeline Cruice and Lucy Dipper from the Centre for Language and Communication Sciences Research at City and funded by the Stroke Association, involved 28 participants with chronic aphasia, split equally into immediate treatment and delayed treatment (control) groups. Treatment was structured into 20 sessions over 10 weeks, each lasting an hour. Sessions were conducted via Zoom, making the therapy accessible during the COVID-19 pandemic. The LUNA treatment focused on personal narrative monologues, helping participants reconstruct their chosen narratives through structured language exercises targeting words, phrases, sentences, and discourse macrostructures.

It was seen that LUNA improved the narrative abilities of participants who received the treatment compared to the control group. Improvements were also seen in terms of language functioning and mood. These results underscore the potential of LUNA to effectively enhance communication skills among aphasia patients. The study has been published in the journal PLoS One.

Professor Dipper, Professor of Clinical Linguistics, said: "Traditional therapeutic approaches often focus on word and sentence-level treatments, but LUNA represents a shift in aphasia treatment to align more closely with real-life communication needs."

Professor Cruice, Professor of Aphasia Rehabilitation and Recovery, said: "Our findings demonstrate the potential of narrative-based interventions to make a real difference in the lives of people with aphasia. We hope this study encourages further research and adoption of discourse-focused therapies, ultimately leading to more holistic and effective rehabilitation practices."

Story Source:

Materials provided by City University London. Original written by George Wigmore. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Lucy Dipper, Niamh Devane, Rachel Barnard, Nicola Botting, Mary Boyle, Lin Cockayne, Deborah Hersh, Carla Magdalani, Jane Marshall, Kate Swinburn, Madeline Cruice. A feasibility randomised waitlist-controlled trial of a personalised multi-level language treatment for people with aphasia: The remote LUNA study. PLOS ONE, 2024; 19 (6): e0304385 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0304385

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City University London. "Using novel discourse treatment to improve communication in people with aphasia." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 June 2024. <>.
City University London. (2024, June 17). Using novel discourse treatment to improve communication in people with aphasia. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 14, 2024 from
City University London. "Using novel discourse treatment to improve communication in people with aphasia." ScienceDaily. (accessed July 14, 2024).

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