Research Assistant Professor of Neurology, BU School of Medicine and VA Aphasia Research Center
BA in Linguistics and English Literature, Tel Aviv University, Israel
PhD in Applied Linguistics, Boston University
Dalia Cahana-Amitay's research explores the mechanisms by which poor “brain health” contributes to deteriorating cognitive and linguistic performance in aging, among individuals with and without stroke. To this end, her work has followed two parallel tracks. The first is the study of how diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome impair older adults’ lexical retrieval and sentence processing abilities. With her colleagues, she has been developing a novel clinical concept of “Mild Language Impairment” (MLI), similar to the concept of Mild Cognitive Impairment, which has been proposed to account for patterns of cognitive decline in aging. They believe that MLI explains how language functions become insidiously impaired with aging, accelerated by poor health.
The second line of research she has pursued is the exploration of how biomarkers of stress reactivity, such as changes in heart rate or levels of skin conductance, affect language performance among individuals with stroke-based language deficits, i.e., aphasia. The principal motivating hypothesis of these studies has been that language use in aphasia is a stressor, which can lead to a state of “linguistic anxiety," where psychological and physiologic stress responses exacerbate language impairment. These findings may help to broaden the focus of clinical practice in aphasia to encompass psychophysiology, leading to the development of novel, scientifically based assessments and treatments of aphasia and related language disorders.