First standardized test in Russian developed for aphasia-related disorders

Researchers at the HSE University Center for Language and Brain have created and standardized a new battery of tests to diagnose speech disorders in people with brain damage. The test is the first standardized assessment tool in Russia in the field. The article titled “The Russian Aphasia Test: The First Comprehensive, Quantitative, Standardized, Computerized Computerized Aphasia Language Battery in Russian” has just been published in the PLOS ONE newspaper.

Historically, clinicians in Russia have used qualitative methods to diagnose speech and language disorders. These tools require a high level of skill on the part of the specialists who use them, and it is difficult to compare the results of evaluations with each other or to use them in research. The small number of quantitative surveys used to assess speech were developed quite a long time ago and often do not meet modern standards for assessment instruments.

Aphasia is one of the language disorders that does not have a standardized Russian test. People with aphasia may have difficulty understanding the speech of others, producing words and sentences, and writing. Aphasia is most often caused by a stroke or brain injury.

A team of researchers from HSE University addressed this lack of a valid Russian methodology to assess and diagnose aphasia by developing and testing the Russian Aphasia Test (RAT). This new tool uses modern neurolinguistic models and has been designed in accordance with the psychometric requirements for this type of diagnostic battery.

The test was validated in a group of 106 healthy participants and 85 people with aphasia. Each participant was assessed with the new test on a tablet. As expected, healthy subjects had no difficulty with the test. The results of aphasic patients accurately reflected their diagnoses, as well as specific language deficits identified using qualitative methods in a clinical setting. These and other statistical tests conducted by the team of researchers demonstrate the validity and reliability of the test. The results obtained from the test subjects were also used to standardize the tool.

A validated test accurately measures what it intends to measure. Its results are consistent over time and vary according to the subjects exhibiting different levels of the parameter measured. Standardization is a separate procedure for identifying test assessment standards based on the results of subjects from different groups. This allows each patient’s results to be compared to the same standard.

The fully developed version of the test allows specialists to assess aphasia based on three language functions: auditory language comprehension, repetition, and language production. Each of these functions is assessed at different linguistic levels, from processing individual sounds (phonemes), isolated words and sentences, to understanding and producing speech. For example, in order to assess auditory language comprehension, subjects are asked to match the word or phrase they hear to a picture. The tasks to assess repetition consist of repeating a non-word, word or phrase. Language production is assessed by asking participants to provide a verbal description of the images. The test contains a total of 13 different subtests, each consisting of 8 to 24 items. On average, a person with aphasia takes 60 to 90 minutes to complete the entire test.

This type of differential assessment provides a detailed profile of the patient’s language deficits, allowing the clinician to select the most optimal and effective treatment. The test is the first Russian diagnostic tool to be standardized according to modern psychometric standards. The Russian aphasia test can be used both in clinical practice and in neurolinguistic studies of language.

Another first (both in Russia and internationally), the test automates the assessment of aphasia. The test can be administered to patients using a tablet app, which then automatically evaluates the performance of some of the subtests. The test examiner can use the device to assess the accuracy of completing the remaining subtests, and the program will then specify the severity level of the disorder for each language function.

The publication of this test is a milestone in Russian aphasiology. We have spent almost ten years working on this project. First, we developed the tasks and tested them on a small number of topics. We selected the best of them and conducted large-scale data collection to validate and standardize the test. At the same time, we have developed an application capable of automating presentation and scoring procedures. The last few years have been spent processing the data and preparing the test material for publication. Using the test in clinical and research settings will take Russian aphasiology to a new level. “

Maria ivanova

Maria Ivanova is the head of the team behind the test, a researcher at the Aphasia Recovery Lab at the University of California at Berkeley, and a former researcher at the HSE University Center for Language and Brain.

Olga Dragoy, director of the Center for Language and Brain and co-author of the project:

“The Russian Aphasia Test is the most outstanding clinical application created at the HSE University Center for Language and Brain. It represents the latest neurolinguistic knowledge, the best traditions of psychometry and modern technology. We believe that our considerable efforts will benefit the speech and language disorders field in Russia and create a global trend for language assessment tools. ‘


Higher School of Economics of the National Research University

Journal reference:

Ivanova, MV, et al. (2021) The Russian Aphasia Test: The First Complete, Quantitative, Standardized, and Computerized Russian Aphasia Language Battery. PLoS A.

Sylvester L. Goldfarb