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

Ruth Herbert

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


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.

With the support of 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. The Centre is run by highly specialist speech and language therapist Janet Walmsley (j.s.walmsley@sheffield.ac.uk).

As a result of building this research community I established an Aphasia Research Group. The Group includes staff and PhD students, and 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, Lucy Dyson, 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.


Recent work into accessible information for people with aphasia, with colleagues Dr Caroline Haw and Dr Emma Gregory has seen materials we produced for people with aphasia incorporated into the Stroke Association’s online information for people affected by stroke – My Stroke Guide. To access the materials please go to https://mystrokeguide.com. An example of our materials is shown here. We are grateful to our graphic designers Jon Dale and colleagues at TransmitCreative


I am thrilled to have been awarded the University of Sheffield Students’ Union Award for Best Post-Graduate Supervisor 2016. A huge thank you to all my PhD students. 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. This award recognises all your contributions.

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. Caroline Haw is completing her PhD on this topic.

External Collaborators

David Howard, University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Tariq Khwaileh, University of Qatar
Jane Morgan, Sheffield Hallam University

PhD students

Hanadi Al-Batati

Hanadi has funding for her PhD from Saudi Arabia. She is investigating goal-setting in aphasia therapy, working with people with aphasia, family members, and speech and language therapists in clinics in Saudi Arabia.

Sarah Allen

Sarah was awarded a three year Faculty Scholarship. She is investigating the use of technology to deliver therapy to people with aphasia. Sarah is a speech and language therapist and she is also working clinically.

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.

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.

Photo of (l-r) Ruth Herbert, Caroline Haw & Emma Gregory

Dr Caroline Haw completed her PhD in September 2017. This project focused on information access for people with aphasia, identifying best practice for the provision of information.

Dr Lucy Dyson completed her PhD in September 2017. Her project identified retained semantic function in people diagnosed as having a semantic deficit through traditional tests. She is working with me to develop new ways of identifying this retained function to ensure accurate diagnosis.


Clinical Resources

Herbert, R., Haw., Brown, C., & Gregory, E. (2018). My Stroke Guide. Information for stroke survivors. Stroke Association. https://www.stroke.org.uk/professionals/commission-our-life-after-stroke-services/my-stroke-guide-2016

Herbert, R., Haw, C., Brown, C,. Gregory, E. (2015). Accessible information materials: Communicate Stroke. Stroke Association.

Herbert, R., Haw, C., Brown, C,. Gregory, E., Brumfitt, S. (2012). Accessible Information Guidelines. Stroke Association, May 2012. ISBN 978-0-901548-66-5

Herbert, R., Best, W., Hickin, J., Howard, D., & Osborne, F. (2012). Profile of word errors and retrieval in speech (POWERS). Publisher: JR Press. http://www.jr-press.co.uk/word-errors-retrieval-speech.html

Book Chapters

Hickin, J., Herbert, R., Best, W., Howard, D. & Osborne, F. (2014). Lexical and functionally based treatment: Effects on word retrieval and conversation. In Aphasia Therapy File (Vol. II) Second Edition, S. Byng, K. Swinburn & C. Pound (Eds.), (69-82). Hove UK: Psychology Press. ISBN 113800605

Hickin, J., Herbert, R., Best, W., Howard, D. & Osborne, F. (2007). Efficacy of treatment: Effects on word retrieval and conversation. In Aphasia Therapy File (Vol. II), S. Byng, K. Swinburn & C. Pound (Eds.), (69-82). Hove UK: Psychology Press.

Hickin, J., Best, W., Herbert, R., Howard, D. & Osborne, F. (2002). Phonological therapy for word-finding difficulties: a re-evaluation. Macquarie Monographs in Cognitive Science: Rehabilitation of Spoken Word Production in Aphasia, L. Nickels (Ed), 981-1000.

Journal Articles

Khwaileh, T., Howard, D., Herbert, R. (2018). Gulf Arabic nouns and verbs: A set of standardised set of 319 object pictures and 141 action pictures, and predictors of naming latencies. Behavior Research Methods, in press.

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. https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1UTll3FHbnQCRj DOI: 10.1016/j.jneuroling.2017.01.001

Khwaileh, T., Body, R., & Herbert, R. (2015). Morpho-syntactic processing of Arabic plurals after aphasia: dissecting lexical meaning from morpho-syntax within word boundaries. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 32, 340-367 DOI: 10.1080/02643294.2015.1074893

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. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010945214001208

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. March 2014

Best, W., Grassly, J., Greenwood, A., 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, 2345–2357. (IF: 7.251)

Khwaileh, T., Body, R., & Herbert , R. (2013). 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, 43(6), 749-769.

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. (IF: 2.438)
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09602011.2012.679030 http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/112008/

Gregory, E., Varley, R., Herbert, R. (2012). Determiner primes as facilitators of lexical retrieval in English. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research. 41, 439-453. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10936-012-9207-5 http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/112012/

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.

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. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10936-012-9207-5

Herbert, R. & Best, W. (2010). The role of noun syntax in spoken word production: Evidence from aphasia. Cortex, 46, 329-342.

Herbert, R., Hickin, J., Howard, D., Osborne, F. & Best, W. (2008). Do picture naming tests provide a valid assessment of everyday functional lexical retrieval? Aphasiology. 22/2, 184-203.

Best, W., Schroder, A., Herbert, R. (2006). An investigation of a relative impairment in naming non-living items: theoretical and methodological implications. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 19, 96-123.

Herbert, R., & Best, W. (2005). A deficit in noun syntax representations in aphasia. Brain and Language, 95, 94-95.

Herbert, R., Best, W., Hickin, J., Howard, D. & Osborne, F. (2003). Combining lexical and interactional approaches to therapy for word finding deficits in aphasia. Aphasiology, 17, 1163-1186.

Best, W., Herbert, R., Hickin, J., Howard, D. & Osborne, F. (2002). Phonological and orthographic facilitation of word retrieval in aphasia: immediate and delayed effects. Aphasiology, 16, 1/2, 151-168.

Hickin, J., Best, W., Herbert, R., Howard, D. & Osborne, F. (2002). Phonological therapy for word finding difficulties: a re-evaluation. Aphasiology, 16, 981-999.

Bruce, C., Parker, A. & Herbert, R. (2001). The development of a self-directed and peer-based clinical training programme for final year speech and language therapy students. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 36, 401-405.

Herbert, R., Best, W., Hickin, J., Howard, D. & Osborne, F. (2001). Phonological and orthographic approaches to the treatment of word retrieval in aphasia. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 36, S1, 7-12.

Hickin, J., Best, W., Herbert, R., Howard, D. & Osborne, F. (2001). Treatment of word retrieval in aphasia: generalisation to conversational speech. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 36, S1, 13-18.

Best, W., Hickin, J., Herbert, R., Howard, D., & Osborne, F. (2000). Phonological facilitation of aphasic naming and predicting the outcome of treatment for anomia. Brain and Language, 74, 435-438.

Osborne F., Hickin, J., Best, W., Howard, D., & Herbert, R. (1998). Treating word finding difficulties- beyond picture naming. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 33, 208-213.

Conference proceedings:

Anderson, E., Cowell, P., & Herbert, R. (2018). The role of frequency in the association between verbs and argument structure constructions. Proceedings of UKCLA 2017, 4, 448-468.

Dyson, L., Morgan, J., Body, R., & Herbert, R. (2016). Assessment of lexical semantics in healthy speakers and people with aphasia. Frontiers in Psychology. Conference Abstract: 54th Annual Academy of Aphasia Meeting. doi: 10.3389/conf.fpsyg.2016.68.00117

Khwaileh, T., Herbert, R. & Body (2013). Determiner cuing in Arabic anomia: the role of syntax in lexical retrieval. Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, 94, 141-141.

Gregory, E., Herbert, R., & Varley, R. (2010). Integration of lexis and syntax in anomia therapy. Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, 6, 258-259.

Herbert, R., Hickin, J., Best, W., Howard, D. & Osborne, F. (2001). Phonological therapy for word finding difficulties in aphasia. Neurocase, 7/2, 185.