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UK researchers have developed a new smart app that could help occupational therapists to support stroke patients in improving their reading ability.
Created by a team from University College London, the iReadMore app provides computer-based reading therapy using written and spoken words and pictures, with the aim of helping users improve their word-reading speed and accuracy.
It contains a large number of specifically trained words that are regularly repeated during the therapy, as well as untrained words of similar difficulty that are not taught specifically, giving users the ability to learn more generally in addition to their item-specific learning improvements.
For this study, 21 chronic stroke patients with reading disorders affecting their speech and comprehension were asked to use the iReadMore app for a total of 68 hours. On average, iReadMore training resulted in an 8.7 per cent improvement in patients' reading accuracy for trained words, with some improving by as much as 25 per cent, while reading speed also increased.
Although this initial study showed no effect on untrained words, it was shown that app use, when paired with a session of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) therapy, helped to stimulate neural plasticity and improve the patients' grasp of both trained and untrained words.
Lead author Dr Zoe Woodhead, of the University College London Institute of Neurology and the University of Oxford, said: "What this study shows is that regular practice with this reading therapy significantly improves people's ability to relearn and remember words which we are all familiar with.
"In addition, the electrical stimulation further improves a stroke patient's ability to read, but the effect is smaller than the iReadMore therapy."
Stroke patients typically require around 100 hours of speech and language therapy to see a marked improvement, but the NHS only provides around 12 hours at present. It is hoped that this app will help to bridge this gap once it is available for general use.
Written by Alex Franklin Stortford
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