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Prof. Dr. Marcelo L. Berthier, Functional and Structural Neural Plasticity Promoted by Combining Aphasia Therapy with Drugs

10.03.2016 | 18:30 s.t.



Functional and Structural Neural Plasticity Promoted by Combining Aphasia Therapy with Drugs


Prof. Dr. Marcelo L. Berthier

Cognitive Neurology and Aphasia Unit

Centro de Investigaciones Médico-Sanitarias (CIMES)

University of Malaga, Spain


Neuronal connections and cortical maps in both cerebral hemispheres can be remodeled in both healthy subjects and brain damaged individuals by experience (brain plasticity). This activity-dependent modification of synaptic strength and reorganization of cortical areas is also modulated by behavioural interventions as well as by the interplay of different central neurotransmitters (acetylcholine, glutamate). This evidence opens the possibility to simultaneously treat aphasic deficits with drugs and speech-language therapy. The rationale for using this combined intervention in persons with post-stroke aphasia is that drugs may prime brain structure for a better response to behavioural interventions. During the last decade, we have performed open-label and randomized controlled trials using a cholinesterase inhibitor (Donepezil) or a NMDA receptor antagonist (Memantine) combined with intensive speech language therapy (constraintinduced aphasia therapy) in persons with chronic post-stroke aphasia. These interventions were extremely successful in ameliorating not only deficits in language and everyday communication. Cholinergic stimulation, but not glutamatergic leveraging, additionally improved deficits in visual attention, depression and reduced goal-directed behavior (apathy). Gains in language, communication, attentional, and mood/motivation domains were correlated with functional and/or structural plasticity in both cerebral hemispheres as well as in areas important for emotional regulation.


Zeit & Ort

10.03.2016 | 18:30 s.t.

Berlin School of Mind and Brain:
Luisenstraße 56,
Raum 144 (Erdgeschoss)