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AAC-BCI iNNOVATION Laboratory (iLAB):  Overview

The Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and Brain Computer Interface (BCI) iNNOVATION Laboratory (iLAB) conducts translational and implementation research to investigate the essential questions that impact communication effectiveness and efficiency using a wide range of innovative AAC interventions and technology. Our team is evaluating BCI EEG approaches as an alternative access method for communication. iLAB research involves interprofessional teams with end-user members. Language Activity Monitoring (LAM) tools and resources support the collection and analysis of multi-media language sample data essential to support standardization of performance measures and comparison among AAC treatment approaches and technology. Focus group, survey data and expert panels support the validity of factors influencing outcomes. Our goal is to leverage performance, usability and user satisfaction data to improve the standard of care and communication outcomes of individuals across the life span who benefit from AAC assistive technology.

AAC-BCI translation to clinical trials

“As long as I can properly communicate with my voice, my eyes or a machine or whatever, I want to have a respirator…But as soon as I can no longer communicate, that’s it! I don’t want anything else to be done.” This quote (Lemoignan and Ells 2010) illustrates the vital role of communication in the quality-of-life of people with severe physical impairments. Our iLAB team is collaborating with the Biomedical Engineering lab at the University of Michigan and an industry partner to test and run proof-of-product to clinical trials to measure the effectiveness of an AAC-BCI prototype. Dr. Hill’s lab is involved in performance testing using quantitative research methodologies as well as heading projects using qualitative research methods to gather opinions and satisfaction from multidisciplinary team members, users of AAC technology and family members.

Development of an AAC-BCI Clinical Resources and Tools

Our funded research includes efforts to create innovative clinical training resources and tools to support inter-professional education (IPE) and inter-professional practice (IPP) teams and AAC-BCI users and caregivers. Through a series of focus groups, internet-based surveys and expert panels using state-of-the art qualitative data gathering methods and data analysis software, we are identifying essential practice competencies and clinical pathways that will result in improved technology, delivery of clinical services and patient outcomes resulting in a higher quality of life.

AAC-Bank: A repository of language samples contributed from AAC speakers

The long-term objective for the use of language activity monitoring (LAM) tools and resources is to advance AAC research from mostly behavioral observation toward a quantitative analysis of linguistic performance and communication outcome measurement. Multimedia language samples are being contributed from individuals who relying on AAC and BCI interventions and technology. Our language samples are being contributed from individuals across the lifespan, with a variety of disabilities and communication disorders and a wide range of AAC strategies and speech generating devices. AACBank is intended to support multiple, worldwide user communities in various facets of AAC research, development and clinical practice.

Our research program deploys an IPP team of speech language pathologists, clinical health care professionals, biomedical engineers, linguists, computational linguists and industry to identify innovative approaches to measuring and improving the primary, secondary and tertiary components AAC technology. We are taking AAC in new theoretical directions and scientific discovery by standardizing performance measures and identifying variables that influence effective communication. Such data allow for computational modeling to improve treatment based on how language is represented and generated using AAC strategies and software.