In-Progress Clinical Trial Evaluating Speech Therapy for People with PPA

Communications Bridge allows people with PPA to receive speech-language threapy in a telehealth setting

The Communications Bridge 2 clinical trial is currently evaluating whether a specially developed speech therapy regimen could help mitigate communications difficulties for people with primary progressive aphasia more effectively than an impairment-focused approach.  

According to the study protocol for the trial, impairment-focused therapy addresses PPA related speech difficulties by trying to repair the disrupted speech processes through a series of regimented activities. The Communications Bridge therapy is similar but takes a personalized approach to each participant and encourages greater involvement of care partners in the process.  

Communications Bridge is notable for being administered in an web-based setting, even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating the value of telehealth as a tool for treating PPA and other forms of frontotemporal degeneration.  

Researchers are evaluating the Communications Bridge program based on how much individuals can continue to engage in everyday activities despite the progression of their condition.  

The trial is being spearheaded by a number of prominent figures in the FTD research community.  

Principal investigator Emily J. Rogalski, PhD, and Darby J. Morhardt, PhD of Northwestern University recently hosted an AFTD webinar on person-centered care for individuals with PPA. M. Marsel Mesulam, MD, is the director of Northwestern University’s Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease and a member of AFTD’s Medical Advisory Council.  

Communications Bridge received an early boost from AFTD with a Pilot Grant to Dr. Rogalski  in 2013. Thanks to their seed funding, Dr. Rogalski and her team were able to gather essential data and eventually secure an R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health.  

Communications Bridge 2 is still ongoing but is no longer recruiting participants. 

While trial results from Communications Bridge have yet to be published, care partner testimony that was featured in the fall 2020 issue of Partners in FTD Care sheds light on the Communications Bridge experience, and the potential benefits it can have.  

Writing about her husband, Gary, who has FTD, FTD care partner Barb Murphy wrote, “When we started, Gary and I were told to list words that we felt were important for him to retain, and to practice those words daily. He even practiced on vacation! Now, six months since our final session, Gary is still able to recall all but the eight most difficult words on that list. The skills he learned gave him the confidence to pick up the phone and call his buddies and sons for the first time since his diagnosis.”  


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