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

#GoldenTweets is a cognitive social media training program designed to investigate the effects of participation in a Twitter training program, as well as online self-presentation and interaction, on communication and cognitive function in individuals ages 55–90 with normal cognitive aging, and individuals 18 and older with aphasia, traumatic brain injury, mild cognitive impairment, stuttering, and voice disorders.

The program is provided as a component of an Illinois State University research study that is examining how cognitive social media training impacts communication and cognitive function across populations. The program includes individual and group training activities. Light snacks are also provided.

The #GoldenTweets program is being implemented and managed by Dr. Jennine Harvey-Northrop, an associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders,  and Dr. Caleb T. Carr, an associate professor in the School of Communication, during the spring semester. This clinical research program provides an innovative training opportunity for CSD students, in which they gain experience implementing a cognitive social media training for multiple populations.

Former clinicians Lyndsay Byers and Salwa Kahn shared their thoughts about their experiences with the program. Byers stated that her favorite part about the program was being able to provide therapy within a casual atmosphere. Kahn enjoyed building rapport with the participants she was working with and collaborating with other clinicians. Both graduate students loved having the opportunity to grow their clinical skills through the feedback they received, learn more about assessments, and work with the adult population.

The graduate clinicians felt that the program helped participants to learn skills beyond the foundational use of social media. Kahn stated that the program was a valuable opportunity to learn how to be creative with using multiple modes of online interaction (pictures, GIFs, polls, etc.), which was useful in opening new doors for communicating with friends and family. Byers stated that participants were able to gain generalizable skills about online navigation, which seemed to be beneficial for them.

This program has been offered as clinical research protocol since 2015, with continued program refinement, data collection, and research dissemination to determine the most efficacious cognitive social media training program.  Initial pilot results support the use of a cognitive social media training tool to promote intergenerational learning, communication, and stimulation. (Harvey, Beck, & Carr, 2019). Further program development will continue to address how to best-collaborate with older adults to get them comfortably independently using social media (specifically Twitter) to be able to reap the social, personal, and cognitive benefits using these tools can offer.

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.