Researchers are developing the first Russian standardized test for aphasia-related disorders

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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 Russian-language assessment tool 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 a language disorder that has no standardized test Russian. The aphasia may have trouble understanding the speech of others, to produce words and phrases and write. Aphasia is most often caused by a stroke or brain injury.

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

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 the 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 subjects with different levels of the measured parameter. Standardization is a separate procedure for identifying test evaluation standards based on the results of the subjects of different groups. This allows to compare the results of each patient to the same standard.

The fully developed version of the test allows specialists to evaluate aphasia based on three language skills: listening comprehension of language, repetition and language production. Each function is evaluated at different linguistic levels, from processing individual sounds (phonemes), isolated words and sentences to the understanding and production of speech. For example, to assess the understanding of auditory language requires subjects to match the word or phrase they hear an image. The tasks to evaluate the repetition are to repeat a non-word, a word or phrase. The language production is assessed by asking participants to provide a verbal description of the images. The test contains a total of 13 different sub-tests, each comprising from 8 to 24 elements. 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 in the world), the test automates the assessment of aphasia. The test can be administered to patients using an application on a tablet, which then automatically evaluates the performance of some of the subtests. The test examiner can use the device to evaluate the accuracy of the completion of the remaining sub-tests, and the program then specify the disorder severity level for each language function.

“The publication of this test is a milestone in the Russian aphasiology” said Maria Ivanova, head of the team behind the test, a researcher at the Aphasia Recovery Lab at the University of California, Berkeley and a former researcher of HSE university Center for language and the brain. “We spent nearly ten years working on this project. First, we developed tasks and have tested it on a few topics. We have selected the best of them and conducted a large-scale data collection to validate and standardize the test. In parallel, we have developed an application that automates procedures for the submission and rating. The last few years have been devoted to data processing and preparation of test materials for publication. The use of the test in clinical settings and research will bring the Russian aphasiology to a new level. “

Olga Dragoy, Director of the Center for Language and Brain and co-author of the project, said: “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 tremendous efforts will benefit the speech and language disorders field in Russia and set a global trend for language assessment tools.


Electrical brain stimulation used to treat stroke patients with aphasia


More information:
Maria V. Ivanova et al, The Russian Aphasia Test: The First Complete, Quantitative, Standardized and Computerized Aphasia Language Battery in Russian, PLOS ONE (2021). DOI: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0258946

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Sylvester L. Goldfarb