Ruth Herbert

BA, PGDip, MSc, PhD

Division of Human Communication Sciences, Health Sciences School

Emeritus Professor of Aphasiology
+44 114 222 2403

Full contact details

Ruth Herbert
Division of Human Communication Sciences, Health Sciences School
362 Mushroom Lane
S10 2TS

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 (

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.

Research interests

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



  • Herbert R, Best W, Hickin J, Howard D & Osborne F (2012) POWERS: Profile of word errors and retrieval in speech. Guildford: J&R Press. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Herbert R, Haw C, Brown C, Gregory E & Brumfitt S (2012) Accessible Information Guidelines. London: Stroke Association. RIS download Bibtex download

Journal articles


  • Hickin J, Herbert R, Best W, Howard D & Osborne F (2007) Efficacy of treatment: Effects on word retrieval and conversation. In Byng S, Duchan J & Pound C (Ed.), Aphasia Therapy File (Vol. II) (pp. 69-82). Hove UK: Psychology Press. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Hickin J, Best W, Herbert R, Howard D & Osborne F (2002) Phonological therapy for word-finding difficulties: a re-evaluation In Nickels L (Ed.), Macquarie Monographs in Cognitive Science: Rehabilitation of Spoken Word Production in Aphasia (pp. 981-1000). Hove: Psychology Press. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Byng S () The Aphasia Therapy File Psychology Press RIS download Bibtex download

Conference proceedings papers

Research group

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.

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.


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.