InterSpeech 2011

Language Disorders: Viewpoints on a Complex Object

Gabriele Miceli (University of Trento)

Aphasia is a common consequence of damage to the side of the brain, that severely limits the individual's ability to communicate by means of language. In the US (population: 311 million; source: Census bureau), approximately 80,000 adults acquire aphasia each year, and about 1 million adults currently have aphasia (source: NIDCD). By 2020, in the US (projected population: 335 million) the incidence of aphasia is expected to rise to 180.000 cases, and the prevalence to 2 million persons. This is because: population is increasing and aging; better procedures for acute neurological conditions increase survival rates; and, more effective medications and maintenance regimens increase survivors? life expectancy. These facts create an increasing need for intervention at all stages of the disease - early diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of language deficits; development of compensatory strategies and tools - at a time when health care systems worldwide (no matter whether private or socialized) deal with a severe economic crisis. I will discuss some recent applications that may make work on disorders of speech perception and speech production more effective. I will also discuss critical aspects of the communication disabilities observed in aphasic speakers, that make research in this area different from analogous work on unimpaired communication, and that relate to a paramount need to develop simulations of human language that are both functional and biologically viable.