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A drug used to treat stroke victims who develop speech difficulties has proven effective in another rare type of patient, according to a report written by an Old Dominion faculty member and her colleagues.

Anastasia M. Raymer, an assistant professor in the Department of Early Childhood, Speech-Language Pathology and Special Education, and her former colleagues at the University of Florida, where she was a research scientist five years ago, released their findings in the January edition of Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

The group studied the effects of bromocriptine, a drug commonly used to treat stroke victims, on a right-handed Florida man who suffered a stroke on the right side of his brain, where it was found his language skills were located. His condition is referred to as crossed nonfluent aphasia. Aphasia is the partial or total loss of the ability to articulate ideas or comprehend spoken or written language, resulting from damage to the brain caused by injury or disease.

The speech faculties for approximately 90 percent of the right-handed population are located on the left side of the brain, Raymer said. Researchers estimate that the incidence of crossed aphasia is only 1 or 2 percent of all right-handed patients with aphasia.

The subject of the journal article experienced halting speech patterns, had difficulty forming sentences and spoke at a rate of 11 words per minute. The typical rate for healthy humans is 150 to 200 words, Raymer noted. After the bromocriptine treatment, he experienced fewer pauses and was able to form thoughts into sentences at a rate of about 30 words per minute.

"That's still impaired, but it was a clinically significant change," Raymer said.

The man also was tested on the number of words he could think of that begin with a certain letter. Twelve to 15 is considered normal. Raymer said he could think of only two per minute before the treatment, but 14 afterward.

Bromocriptine and drugs like it may not only help activate the dysfunctional right frontal lobe of the brain, but also may activate dormant left hemispheric language areas that typically mediate language production, the researchers say in the report.

Bromocriptine also has been used to treat disorders such as Parkinson's disease and conditions associated with high levels of the hormone prolactin, and has been found to reduce growth hormone levels.

This article was posted on: February 23, 2001

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