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Communication Designs: Multipopulation cognitive stimulation and training program

Four people smiling at a laptop

The Neurologic Communication Disorders and Cognitive Wellness Lab at Illinois State University’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders is offering the communication designs program in spring 2020!

Communication Designs is a multicomponent program designed to examine the effects of a mental training, stimulation, and educational program on the communication and cognitive health in individuals ages 60–90 with normal cognitive aging (NCA), and individuals 18 and older with aphasia, traumatic brain injury (TBI), mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and dementia.

The program is provided as a component of an Illinois State University research study that is examining how mental training and stimulation improves cognitive wellness during aging across populations. The program includes individual and group brain workout activities, educational guest lectures, and a home assignment program. Light snacks or lunch are also provided.

The Communication Designs program is implemented and managed by Dr. Jennine Harvey-Northrop, associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD), during the spring semester. This clinical research program provides an innovative training opportunity for CSD students, where they gain experience implementing a multicomponent cognitive-communication intervention for multiple populations.

Graduate students Salwa Kahn and Lyndsay Byers, who were both clinicians in the program last year, shared what stood out most to them in their experiences. The graduate clinicians each felt that the program provided a valuable opportunity for them to be flexible and modify the complexity of various cognitive intervention tasks, while utilizing and building upon participants’ current skills.

Kahn noticed an increase in engagement, motivation, and focus in participants throughout the duration of the program. Participants shared with the clinicians that these changes carried over into their activities of daily living outside of the program as well. “Anyone can benefit from learning something new,” Kahn said.

This program has been offered as a clinical research protocol since 2014, with continued program refinement, data collection, and research dissemination to determine the most efficacious evidence-based multicomponent evidence-based intervention program for multiple populations.

About the lab

At the Neurologic Communication Disorders and Cognitive Wellness Lab, we are conducting research to advance our knowledge and service for the residents of Bloomington-Normal, Illinois who have neurologic and cognitive communication disorders. We are also working with active seniors who are interested in participating in mental fitness programs designed to maintain and/or improve brain health and agility. Our mission is to educate and increase community awareness about cognitive stimulation and its effects on brain aging. We also are specialists who help patients that have sustained brain damage from strokes, head injuries, and other neurologic diseases.