"I miss Tucson. The Mountains. Blue Skies. Even the heat."
ABC News has documented the recovery of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords from a gunshot wound sustained in January, in conjunction with the release of "Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope
", written by Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly.
The full special, here
, is unfortunately viewable only in the US, but ABC also provided a slideshow on some of the aspects of Gifford's recovery here
Key to Gifford's story is Broca's area - the first part of the brain to be assigned a specific role, after Pierre Paul Broca discovered lesions in the left hemisphere of the brains of two patients whose ability to speak had become severely impaired. Broca's area
and Wernicke's area
have long been identified as key to generating and comprehending speech (broadly speaking), with damages to each resulting in non-fluent ("Broca's aphasia") and fluent (patient can speak fluently, but has problems comprehending language) aphasia
Progressive, slow damage to Broca's area has seen language function migrate to other areas - as in the case of the subject of this case study
, who experienced only damage to the use of indirect speech and relative clauses after Broca's area was surgically removed from his brain. Research at the University of Rochester further identified that speech functions were distributed across the brain
. However, sudden trauma - for example from strokes or gunshot wounds - can have a catastrophic effect on fluency.
The damage to Giffords' brain being thankfully localised, her right hemisphere remained almost entirely intact. Giffords has been "relearning" speech using techniques based on Melodic Intonation Therapy
, where patients are encouraged to approach words through songs, and then to step down the level of musicality in their intonation towards normal speech.
Dr Gottfried Schlaug, of the Music and Neuroimaging Laboratory at Beth Israel Deaconess and Harvard Medical School, talks about the neuroplastic implications of musical training in a Library of Congress "Music and the Brain" podcast
Using techniques similar to those used to teach stroke victims how to recover speech, Congresswoman Giffords is now able to form sentences, including the statement "I want to get back to work".