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OHIO Expert

Photo of Brooke Hallowell

Brooke Hallowell, Ph.D.

Areas of Expertise:
Age Studies, Aging, Brain Injury, Communication, Dementia, Diabetes, Eyetracking, Neurological Communication Disorders, Stroke

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Strokes and other brain injuries can shatter lives, sometimes leaving patients locked within themselves and struggling to communicate. Dr. Hallowell is working to break down those barriers and improve assessment methods regarding the survivors' intact abilities.

What is a caregiver to do when severe paralysis, motor control problems or difficulty speaking make traditional evaluative methods ill-equipped to determine just what a person's true cognitive and linguistic abilities are?

Stroke or traumatic brain injury survivors often have aphasia, a neurological condition that impairs their ability to process language. However, aphasia does not affect their intelligence. Measuring the mental agility and comprehension level of these patients is critical to knowing if they can make decisions for themselves, determining proper treatments and even understanding how much and what kind of socialization is appropriate.

Hallowell has spent two decades developing an assessment method that uses eye-tracking technology to measure comprehension, memory and attention by placing patients in front of a computer screen. Carefully crafted image displays are presented, along with spoken messages, as the eye-tracking device records the patient's eye movement patterns.

Using this information, Hallowell's technology can help determine if and how much a brain injury really affects different cognitive and linguistic abilities even without any obvious gestural movement or vocal responses.

Hallowell is currently refining the methods and working with university colleagues to make the technology more-user-friendly and affordable so it may eventually be used by clinicians throughout the world. She is leading a transnational study on aging, disability, and access to care. She is the sole author of the new book, “Aphasia and Other Acquired Neurogenic Language Disorders: A Guide for Clinical Excellence.”

She directs the Ohio University Collaborative on Aging, which brings together researchers, educators, service providers and students with aging-related interests. The University-wide interdisciplinary network focuses on improving the lives of older adults and optimizing quality of life across the lifespan, especially in underserved populations. 

Hallowell's Expertise at a Glance:

  • Communication problems in those with stroke, brain injury and dementia
  • Improving assessment of people with stroke and brain injury
  • The effects of diabetes on cognition and communication abilities
  • Leads model in-home volunteer respite program for adults with disabilities
  • Ask her about the "Brain Collection!"

Expert Video

Breaking the Communication Barrier

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