Dr Sonia Brownsett

Senior Research Fellow

School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences
s.brownsett@uq.edu.au
+61 7 336 55216

Overview

Dr Brownsett is a Speech Pathologist and neuroscientist. She trained and worked as a Speech and Language therapist in the UK prior to commencing a PhD in Clinical Neuroscience at Imperial College, London. Her doctoral research used fMRI to investigate interactions between domain-general and language-specific brain networks during the performance of challenging language tasks in healthy older adults and in the recovery of post-stroke language difficulties (aphasia). Then as a co-investigator on the National Institute of Health Research funded Listen-In trial led by UCL, London, she developed and tested a therapy application that utilised gamification technology to sustain user motivation and engagement in high-dose aphasia therapy (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ucl.li).

Her specific research interests include:

· How general cognitive brain networks (domain- general) interact with task-specific brain networks to modulate behaviour

· Neurobiological predictors of recovery of aphasia.

· How premorbid brain health impacts on recovery of language after a stroke.

· The upregulation, using both behavioural and neurostimulation techniques, of domain-general neural systems to augment language learning both in healthy older adults and people with aphasia.

· The upregulation of domain-general neural systems to augment language re-learning both in people with aphasia.

· The reorganisation of language, and the neural systems underpinning language, following neurosurgery for brain tumours and epilepsy.

· The optimal dose of aphasia therapy and early phase dose investigations.

· The organisation of verbal semantic systems within the brain.

· The use of technology to optimise communication for people living with aphasia.

Within the Queensland Aphasia Research Centre, she leads the ‘Imaging Predictors’ and the ‘Aphasia techHub’ flagship groups. She also leads the Neurobiological Predictors Theme of the NHMRC CRE in Aphasia Recovery and Rehabilitation. Her neurobiological predictors projects aim to understand how a range of neural markers can be used to provide more reliable predictors of language recovery after damage to the brain. She is involved in studies investigating the impact of neurosurgery (for both tumours and epilepsy) on language and semantic systems.

In addition to having over 15 years of clinical experience working with people with language difficulties, she has significant experience involving people with aphasia and members of the public in the development of research studies and therapy trials and has received multiple awards for this work by being awarded multiple prizes including the National Health and Medical Research Council Consumer Engagement Award (2023), the Consumer & Community involvement in Research Award. Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences, University of Queensland (2022), and the Patient, Carer and Public Involvement Winner: UK Stroke Forum Conference (2017).

Research Interests

  • Using gamification technology to enhance engagement in therapy
  • Understanding role of domain-general cognition on language learning and rehabilitation
  • Understanding how neuroimaging markers can be used to make predictions about recovery.
  • How neuromodulation can enhance learning in aphasia
  • Understanding dosage in aphasia treatment
  • How TMS can be used to modulate domain general and language specific processes in the healthy brain
  • How we assess cognition in people with aphasia

Research Impacts

Dr Brownsett's work impacts multiple aspects of society.

  • Her work on including people with communication impairments in research, has not only contributed to an improved understanding of the need to involve people in research, but also how this can be optimised to ensure the voices of those living with communication impairments drive the research agenda. Awarded National Health and Medical Research Council Consumer Engagement Team Award.
  • She works as an invited expert member of Aphasia Management working group on the world-first Living stroke guidelines, translating cutting -edge research evidence into clinical recommendations.
  • Her ongoing collaborations with Neurosurgical planning teams, has resulted in funding for 0.2 FTE Speech Pathologist position embedded within the Neurosurgical planning team.
  • She was part of the team that developed and trialled the ListenIn therapy application, a commercial grade therapy application, available on googleplay (over 100 downloads). This application was the first aphasia therapy application to use gamification to optimise dose of therapy and include people with aphasia both in the research team and co-design of the application.
  • She co-facilitates the NHMRC CRE Aphasia Recovery and Rehabilitation Seminar Series which has a global reach and over 100 registrations per seminar.

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Imperial College London

Publications

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Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

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Available Projects

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Publications

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Conference Publication

Other Outputs

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.