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A feasibility randomised controlled trial of adapted Semantic Feature Analysis delivered in EVA Park


1st supervisor: Prof Katerina Hilari

2nd supervisor: Prof Jane Marshall

3rd supervisor: Dr Madeleine Pritchard

Research centre

Language and Communication Science Research

Project description

Anomia (impaired word finding) is almost ubiquitous in aphasia, with profoundly negative consequences for communication. Semantic Feature Analysis (SFA)is a treatment for anomia. It involves repeated production of target words, coupled with reflection on the meaning of those words. The evidence base for SFA shows that it improves production of practised words, but generalisation to unpractised words and to discourse is often poor. Our team has explored different administrations of SFA, including integration with group therapy. An exciting development explored the administration of SFA in EVA Park, our virtual world for people with aphasia. This allows for remote delivery of therapy (ideal for patients who cannot travel) and may promote generalisation, given the opportunities for communication practice in the virtual environment.

The proposed PhD: this study will extend this work. It will involve a feasibility trial of adapted SFA administered in EVA Park. In addition to core SFA features, therapy will promote discourse skills, by including group interactions and situated communication practice. Phase 1 of the study will develop and manualise the adapted SFA treatment, including literature review, expert clinician and user group consultation. Phase 2 will run a randomised controlled trial (N= 30-40), comparing adapted SFA administered in EVA Park with a control group. For ethical reasons, at the end of the project, those in the control group will be offered the intervention, delivered by SLT students. Feasibility outcomes will explore recruitment, willingness to be randomised, compliance with and acceptability of the treatment and of the outcome measures. Indicative treatment outcomes will be assessed on measures of word finding and discourse (measures will be administered by blinded student assessors). Study findings will contribute to the evidence base of SFA and explore whether an adapted version of therapy may achieve discourse gains. It will lay the foundations for a large scale trial, which can form the basis of an NIHR application.

Supervisory Team: In addition to the named supervisors the candidate will be able to draw on the expertise of the wider LCS aphasia team. There will be synergies with the current LUNA project, which is investigating discourse therapy in aphasia. Professor Boyle, who developed SFA, is a collaborator on LUNA and will be invited to join this PhD project as a consultant.  Professor Wilson (Centre for Human Computer Interaction design, SMCSE) is a collaborator in the EVA Park research and will also be invited to join this project.

Potential for a field of strong candidates: LCS has a strong track record of recruiting excellent PhD candidates, including PhD students who have undertaken work related to this proposal (Efstratiadou, Pritchard).  This proposal may be of interest to recent SLT graduates, to current RAs involved in our aphasia research and to students who are completing our MScs in Speech Language and Communication or Speech and Language Therapy.

If you would like to have an informal discussion please contact K.Hilari@city.ac.uk.