Research topic 4

4. Rehabilitation of speech and language disorder based on exploiting neuroplasticity

We aim to develop new techniques for rehabilitation based on exploiting or promoting neuroplasticity.

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation and neurofeedback

Recent literature has supported that exploiting neuroplasticity by manipulation of brain activity is effective for rehabilitation. Repetitive TMS (rTMS) is one of such techniques that can improve cognitive abilities. Naeser et al. (2005), for example, reported that naming performance of patients with non-fluent aphasia was improved over a long duration by applying rTMS to the right homologue of Broca's area. On the other hand, a neuroimaging technique called neurofeedback has also recently attracted increasing attention. In a neurofeedback experiment, a participant's brain activity is measured with functional neuroimaging technique like fMRI. The brain activity data is then analyzed online, and the result is immediately presented to the participant him/herself; this is a typical sequence of real-time neurofeedback. The participant is instructed to regulate the feedback signal reflecting the activity of a target region. As a consequence, the brain activity of the region may be controlled implicitly. In other words, neurofeedback technique can be used as a method to exercise a specific brain region. We consider that speech and language function can be improved by exercising the brain activity of language-related regions and by inhibiting those of regions interfering language processing. Our goal is to verify the hypothesis and to develop a new rehabilitation technique by combining real-time fMRI neurofeedback with rTMS application.