Researchers at the University of Zurich demonstrated how gestures can improve communication in people with language disorders. The study is published in the journal Neuropsychologia.
The researchers asked healthy volunteers from the Netherlands and Japan to watch short video clips while their eye movements were recorded. These video clips featured speakers with aphasia and non-brain-damaged speakers communicating with gestures in two different scenarios like buying a sweater or witnessing an accident.
The results revealed that when people who have developed severe speaking difficulties (due to a traumatic brain injury, stroke, or brain tumor) are having a conversation, their conversation partners are more likely to pay attention to their hand movements. They also tend to look longer at their non-verbal cues or gestures in an attempt to understand the less informative speech.
One of the lead researchers, Basil Preisig, highlighted how the use of gestures in speech therapy can improve communication for people with language disorders, brain injury, and intellectual and developmental disorders. He remarked: “For people with aphasia, it may be worth using gestures [in therapy] more in order to be better understood by the other person.”
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van Nispen, K., Sekine, K., van der Meulen, I., & Preisig, B. C. (2022). Gesture in the eye of the beholder: An eye-tracking study on factors determining the attention for gestures produced by people with aphasia. Neuropsychologia, 174, 108315. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2022.108315