Dr Ruth Herbert, BA, PGDip, MSc, PhD.

Photo of Ruth Herbert holding Sheffield Students’ Union Award for Best Post-Graduate Supervisor 2015

Reader in Aphasia Research
Departmental Director of Research and Innovation
Department of Human Communication Sciences
University of Sheffield
362 Mushroom Lane
S10 2TS
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 114 222 2403
Fax: +44 (0) 114 222 2439

email : r.herbert@sheffield.ac.uk


Photo by Geoff Wilson

I am really thrilled to have been awarded the University of Sheffield Students’ Union Award for Best Post-Graduate Supervisor 2016. A huge thank you to all the PhD students I am working with.

In September 2015 Janet Walmsley and I were awarded the Sternberg Clinical Innovation Award from the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists for our work in the departmental Aphasia Centre. We want to thank all the visitors with aphasia who come to the Centre and all the students who have attended the Centre in its first two years. This award recognises all your contributions.

My research finds ways to make life better for people with aphasia. This centres on investigations into the nature of word retrieval in aphasia, leading to more refined diagnosis and selection of treatment, and investigations of accessibility of information.

Recently, supported by generous funding from the Tavistock Trust for Aphasia and from the NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group, I set up an Aphasia Communication and Research Centre Aphasia Centre. People with aphasia attend for goal-directed intervention, delivered by students under supervision.

As a result of building this research community I have established an Aphasia Research Group. The Group includes staff and PhD students, along with local clinicians.

I am currently working on a number of projects with a group of researchers at the University of Sheffield and beyond, including Patricia Cowell, Emma Gregory, Caroline Haw, David Howard, Jane Morgan, Tariq Khwaileh, and Catherine Tattersall.

I am a qualified speech and language therapist, and have worked in Higher Education since 1996, with research and teaching roles at Birkbeck College and University College London, and since 2003 at Sheffield. I am registered with the Health and Care Professions Council, a member of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, and an honorary member of the British Aphasiology Society.

Research interests

My research into word-finding difficulties in aphasia has been supported by grants from the Tavistock Trust for Aphasia, the Stroke Association, the Health Foundation, Yorkshire Concept Fund and Sheffield University Enterprises Limited.
The main aims are to:

  • improve diagnosis and assessment
  • improve our knowledge of aphasia in other languages including Arabic
  • produce evidence for effective rehabilitation methods
  • develop novel forms of intervention
  • devise new outcome measures

A relatively new strand of research, supported by grants from the Stroke Association and from South Yorkshire CLAHRC, investigates access to health information for people with aphasia. To date we have:

Current projects

Noun syntax activation in spoken word retrieval in aphasia

In a series of studies Elizabeth Anderson, Wendy Best, Lucy Dyson, Emma Gregory, Tariq Khwaileh, and Dee Webster have worked with me to identify patterns of impaired and intact processing in aphasia, and to develop new assessment and intervention methods, and a related software package.

The projects have been funded by the Health Foundation, the Stroke Association, the Yorkshire Concept Proof of Commercial Concept Fund, and Sheffield University Enterprises Limited.

Tariq Khwaileh investigated this in Arabic in aphasia for his PhD, and Shams Alzumaini is conducting her PhD carrying out a related study.

Future work includes investigations into frequency effects in two word utterances in aphasia through Elizabeth Anderson’s PhD, and priming of syntactic structures in aphasia through Andrew Buddery’s PhD.

Semantic processing in aphasia

Following on from earlier research into category specific impairment in aphasia Lucy Dyson, Richard Body and I are investigating semantic processing and the relationship with cognitive functions including executive function and attention, through a series of experiments with healthy speakers and speakers with aphasia. Lucy Dyson is completing her PhD in this field, funded by a Research Training Fellowship from the Stroke Association.

Gulfian Arabic Test Battery

Tariq Khwaileh, Eiman Mustafawi (Qatar University), David Howard (University of Newcastle upon Tyne) and I are developing a Test Battery for use with speakers of Gulfian Arabic with aphasia. This is supported by grant NPRP-7-1506-3-390 awarded by the Qatar National Research Fund.

Access to information for people with aphasia

This work was initially commissioned by the Stroke Association, who funded two consecutive projects. Recently South Yorkshire CLAHRC have funded further research in this area. The project has delivered information materials designed by people with aphasia, and guidelines for staff working with people with aphasia.

External Collaborators

David Howard, University of Newcastle upon Tyne

Tariq Khwaileh, University of Qatar

Jane Morgan, Sheffield Hallam University

PhD students

Shams Almuzaini

Shams has a three year funded scholarship from King Saud University. She will be studying noun phrase production in Arabic speakers with agrammatic aphasia.

Elizabeth Anderson

Elizabeth has been awarded a Faculty Fee Scholarship as part of her Teaching Assistant post. She will be investigating noun phrase production in aphasia, looking at frequency and complexity.

Dinushee Atapattu   

Based in Sri Lanka, and working both as a lecturer and as a speech and language therapist, Dinushee is investigating language production in Sinhala-English bilingual speakers with aphasia

Andrew Buddery

Andrew was awarded a Faculty Scholarship to investigate structural priming in people with aphasia.

Lucy Dyson

Lucy’s project is funded by a Junior Research Training Fellowship from the Stroke Association. She is examining semantic assessment in aphasia, and challenging theories about semantic control deficit.

Caroline Haw

As a clinical lead speech and language therapist in Sheffield, Caroline has chosen to study part-time. Her research has received funding from the Stroke Assocaiton and from SY-CLARHC. It focused on information access for people with aphasia.

Sajlia Jalil

Sajlia is a remote location student working as a speech and language therapist in Singapore. She is investigating aspects of conversation in speakers who are bilingual and have sustained a traumatic brain injury.

Recent publications

  1. Khwaileh, T., Body, R., & Herbert, R. (2017). Lexical retrieval after Arabic aphasia: syntactic access and predictors of spoken naming. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 42, 140-155.
  2. Khwaileh, T., Body, R., & Herbert, R. (in press). Morpho-syntactic processing of Arabic plurals after aphasia: dissecting lexical meaning from morpho-syntax within word boundaries. Cognitive Neuropsychology.
  3. Herbert, R., Anderson, E., Best, W., & Gregory, E. (2014). Activation of syntax in lexical production in healthy speakers and in aphasia. Cortex, 57, 212-226. (IF: 7.251)
  4. Khwaileh, T., Body, R., & Herbert , R. (in press) A Normative Database and Determinants of Lexical Retrieval for 186 Arabic Nouns: Effects of Psycholinguistic and Morpho-Syntactic Variables on Naming Latency. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research.
  5. Herbert, R., Gregory, E., Best, W. (2014). Syntactic versus lexical therapy for anomia in acquired aphasia: Differential effects on narrative and conversation. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 49, 2, 162-173.
  6. Best, W., Greenwood, A., Grassly, J., Herbert, R., Hickin, J., & Howard, D. (2013). Aphasia rehabilitation: Does generalisation from anomia therapy occur and is it predictable? A case series study. Cortex, 49, 9, 2345-2357.
  7. Herbert, R., Best, W., Hickin, J., Howard, D., & Osborne, F. (2013). Profile of word errors and retrieval in speech (POWERS). JR Press. http://www.jr-press.co.uk/word-errors-retrieval-speech.html
  8. Herbert, R., Haw, C., Brown, C,. Gregory, E., Brumfitt, S. (2012). Accessible Information Guidelines. Stroke Association, May 2012. ISBN 978-0-901548-66-5.
  9. Herbert, R., Webster, D., Dyson, L. (2012). Effects of syntactic cueing therapy on picture naming and connected speech in acquired aphasia. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 22, 609-633.
  10. Gregory, E., Varley, R., Herbert, R. (2012). Determiner primes as facilitators of lexical retrieval in English. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research. 41, 439-453.
  11. Herbert, R, Brown, C, Donald, A, Warburton, M, Haw, C. (2011). Making information about stroke more accessible. International Journal of Stroke, 6, Supplement 2, p.4.
  12. Best, W., Grassly, J., Greenwood, A., Herbert, R., Hickin, J., & Howard, D. (2011). A controlled study of changes in conversation following aphasia therapy for anomia. Disability and Rehabilitation, 33(3): 229–242.
  13. Herbert, R. & Best, W. (2010). The role of noun syntax in spoken word production: Evidence from aphasia. Cortex, 46, 329-342.