Georgetown University Center for Brain Plasticity and Recovery Awarded $3 Million NIH Grant to Study Language and Cognitive Processing after Perinatal Stroke

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Elissa Newport, PhD

Georgetown University’s Elissa Newport, PhD has received a $3 million, five-year grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to study language and cognitive processing after perinatal stroke. Newport, professor of neurology and rehabilitation medicine in the Georgetown University School of Medicine and her research team at the Center for Brain Plasticity and Recovery (CBPR), propose to recruit 30 participants who have had a major perinatal stroke to the left hemisphere and who are now teenagers and young adults. Since the left hemisphere is ordinarily the neural substrate for language, they aim to assess their language skills and to determine (using fMRI) what part of the remaining healthy brain controls their language abilities.  They will also recruit and test 30 teens and young adults with a comparable right hemisphere stroke and 30 healthy siblings, for comparison.

“We have already tested 10-15 kids in each group,” says Newport. “While all of the participants who had a stroke have some hemiparesis and also some mild executive function impairments, their language skills are excellent, equal to those of their healthy siblings. For those who have had a left hemisphere stroke, their language areas are in the right hemisphere areas homotopic to the normal language network.  These areas thus are capable of supporting good language development, if the stroke occurs very early in life.”

Newport goes on to explain that their ongoing work involves recruiting another 10-15 participants in each group, to see if these findings hold up and to assess other components of language to understand how these ordinarily-left hemisphere skills co-exist with ordinarily-right hemisphere skills, all in the right hemisphere after stroke.

More information on CBPR and the Pediatric Stroke Project