What is the Neurolingua Project

Neurolingua is a platform for stimulation and rehabilitation of language disorders based on cognitive neuroscience fundamentals.

Expressive aphasia is a language impairment, due to an episode of acquired brain damage, characterized by a difficulty in generating and articulating language, and an alteration in communicative intentionality. It is one of the most frequent consequences of stroke and causes a very significant disability for the patient in communicating with family members. In addition, it is a very important barrier to reincorporate to the usual occupations, prior to the brain damage.

Speech therapy tries to optimize the reorganization capacity of the nervous system, after injuries, through intensive rehabilitation and the selection of specific exercises, with the intention of trying to improve the capacity of nomination and many other aspects.

The incorporation of computerized systems could allow an intensification of the treatments and an extension of their duration for the necessary time, reducing the cost of these programs for society, as well as facilitating access to rehabilitation services to all those who may need them, extending the sessions to the patients’ homes, reducing the need for travel and facilitating compliance.

In addition, computer systems allow us to generate knowledge about the type of exercise and the most appropriate strategy for each patient, to facilitate nomination and establish recommendations for the treatment of similar patients, who may use the system at a later date.

However, until now we did not have systems that could automatically analyze the patient’s response and classify the alterations in a systematic way, offering structured information to facilitate clinical decision making.

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In this sense, we have recently completed the Neurolingua project (Platform for stimulation and rehabilitation of language disorders based on cognitive neuroscience fundamentals), a project funded by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO).

The main objective of the INNPACTO subprogram is to promote the creation of cooperative projects between research organizations and companies for the joint execution of R&D&I projects that help boost innovative activity, mobilize private investment, generate employment and improve the country’s technological balance.

The Neurolingua project has been carried out in collaboration with two leading companies in applied technological developments: ICA (Informática y Comunicaciones Avanzadas S.L.) and CIMNE (International Center for Numerical Methods in Engineering of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia).

In relation to ICA, coordinator of the technological aspects of the project, this is developed from its New Business Department in the area of e-Health, allowing the integration in the web interface of the Guttmann platform, NeuroPersonalTrainer®, the module corresponding to the Neurolingua project.

CIMNE worked on the integration into the platform of automatic methods of voice transcription and intelligent analysis of language components. From the Institut Guttmann, as conceptual leader and end user of the initiative, we have driven the development of the project, from the specification and design of clinical and functional requirements, project monitoring, validation of the different functionalities, dissemination and dissemination, as well as coordination of the clinical activities of the project.

The Neurolingua Platform is a tool for the rehabilitation of expressive language disorders, focused on word production. It is aimed at expressive aphasia and other types of aphasia with alterations in oral production. It offers tasks at the lexical level, in the modalities of reading aloud, repetition and naming, the latter with the option of syllabic help or clues to complete the sentence. The lexicon is organized into verbs and nouns, grouped thematically around everyday activities and semantic fields. The system automatically presents sequences of visual and/or auditory stimuli that the patient must repeat, name or read aloud as appropriate. The therapist pre-plans, from a web interface, the type of stimuli to be presented, the speed of presentation, the levels of assistance and other parameters of the tasks, individualizing them and defining their level of difficulty.

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The system records in real time the words emitted by the patient and, using speech recognition technologies, transcribes them, records them in a database and classifies them as correct or incorrect. Subsequently, through its web interface, the therapist can access to validate the answers and classify the invalid ones according to the type of error or paraphasia (e.g., phonological or semantic paraphasia), which allows feedback and optimization of the system’s performance. From the collection of data obtained from task executions, and applying artificial intelligence technologies, the system uses the validations performed manually by the therapist to “learn” and improve the future automatic classification of the results of new task executions. In this way, the accuracy of the classifications provided by the system will be increasingly higher.

Among the most novel aspects of the project we highlight, therefore, the integration of speech recognition technologies in an aphasic language treatment program. A system has been implemented that provides functionalities to allow the therapist to validate responses and classify errors or paraphasias from automatic transcriptions. It must be taken into account that, currently, in clinical practice, there are no integrated computer tools available that allow working directly on oral production and that provide an evaluation of its performance, as well as information on the type of errors or paraphasias that may eventually occur.

The result of this project is, therefore, a new product, leading in the field of rehabilitation of language disorders, specifically production or motor aphasia, which represents a qualitative leap in the work process of professionals in the sector. Innovation, integration of various technologies, optimization of the work process, simplification of use and easy adaptation are some of the main objectives achieved with this development.

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For the person with aphasia and for the therapist, Neurolingua is the first tool available to work directly on oral expression, in an individualized and monitored way, and, in short, it contributes to make viable an intensive rehabilitation of aphasia, which according to the principles of cognitive neuroscience is necessary to achieve functional results.