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  4. MSc Projects with Jane Marshall
About City

MSc Projects with Jane Marshall

Research interests

Jane Marshall is interested in all aspects of aphasia.  Her previous research has included investigations of naming, sentence processing, jargon aphasia, compensatory therapy approaches such as writing and drawing, bilingual aphasia and aphasia in users of British Sign Language.  With other members of the department she is currently involved in a project exploring the use of gesture in aphasia therapy.

Suggested MSc project

Testing the Communicative Use of Gesture

The department has recently been awarded a 2 year grant by the Stroke Association to investigate the use of gesture in aphasia therapy.  The grant holders are:  Jane Marshall, Naomi Cocks, Madeline Cruice, Julie Hickin, Tim Pring and Wendy Best (from UCL).  The project will begin in January 2007.

The questions addressed by the project are:

  • To what extent do 20 people with severe aphasia use gesture to communicate?
  • Can their use of gesture be improved by therapy?
  • Will they be able to learn gestures more readily than spoken words?
  • Will learning gestures help participants to say more words?
  • Can participants learn to use gestures when communicating with family members or friends?

The project will involve 20 people with severe aphasia.  It has a repeated measures design.  Participants will be tested twice before therapy begins, once immediately after therapy and again after a pause.  Obviously we are hoping that performance will improve after therapy, following a stable baseline, and that this improvement will be maintained at the final assessment.  In the first phase of the project therapy will work on word and gesture production.  In the second phase we will aim to promote the use of gesture with family members and friends.

The MSc Project (suitable for a paired project – where two students work together)

The project outcome measures will include a new test of the communicative use of gesture.  Our plan is to ask participants to watch a video and then tell their partner  what they have seen.  Partners will then write down what they have understood and we will score the amount of information that has been conveyed.  As participants will have little or no speech their communication will depend on gesture.

The MSc project will develop this test.  It will involve:

Developing five silent video clips that tell a simple narrative (for example, one might show someone putting up shelves); each clip will last about 5 minutes and should contain a similar number of events.

Running the task with at least 15 healthy controls, eg to ensure that the task works and to see how many events are communicated per video.

We also plan to run the task in 2 conditions:

  • Speech
  • Gesture alone

This will enable us to compare the ‘natural gestures’ that occur alongside speech with the gestures produced when speech is eliminated.

This project would enable a student to contribute to an ongoing research activity.

MSc projects previously supervised

Jane has supervised numerous MSc projects in her time.  Topics include: 

  • single case therapy studies involving people with aphasia,
  • surveying public awareness of aphasia,
  • developing a conversational measure,
  • training volunteers to communicate with aphasic people,
  • adapting aphasia tests for language minorities,
  • therapy for proper name impairments.  


Aphasia; therapy; compensatory communication methods; public awareness; bilingualism