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VERSE: Very early aphasia rehabilitation after stroke

Aphasia is a devastating condition following stroke which negatively impacts all aspects of communication including speech, comprehension, reading and writing. The opportunity to harness spontaneous brain recovery to achieve communication independence occurs in the early recovery phase following stroke. Research undertaken by ECU has shown that more than 80% of people with aphasia after stroke cannot access early, intensive aphasia therapy. This research has also revealed that people treated with daily, intensive aphasia therapy commenced within 14 days of stroke onset have greater communication independence than those who receive less intensive or no therapy. However, the longer-term effects of very early aphasia therapy are unknown.

The VERSE study is a speech rehabilitation trial which targets those who have had a stroke and are having difficulty with their speech and language (aphasia). This is an international trial taking place in 16 hospitals and healthcare sites around Australia and New Zealand. This study is aimed at finding out whether regular and structured aphasia therapy is more effective and cost saving than current standard aphasia therapy. Due to the lack of information about what amount and type of therapy is best, this trial will help us to understand what type and how much therapy would be the best for people in the early phase of recovery.

The research

The VERSE project aims to determine:

  • The optimal amount and type of aphasia intervention
  • The relationship between early aphasia therapy and depression
  • The effect of early, intensive aphasia therapy and quality of life at six months after recovery
  • The cost-effectiveness of aphasia therapy in the long term.

Burgeoning healthcare costs and an aging population dictate that finite aphasia resources must deliver the right type of therapy, provided in the right amount, at the right time to the right person.

In addition, the project will provide the first prescribed therapy package for people with aphasia following stroke. This therapy package will assist healthcare workers and speech pathologists across Australia and overseas to deliver the best services available to improve communication for people after stroke.  VERSE aims to assist in the understanding of the relationship between aphasia, stroke brain recovery patterns by using a novel ‘brain mapping’ technique to help identify people who will respond well to early, intensive treatment. VERSE will provide Australia’s first full evaluation of the costs of aphasia on the healthcare systems across the country.

This project is funded by National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia and The Tavistock Trust for Aphasia, UK.


The VERSE project collaborates with the University of Melbourne and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.

VERSE Trial Central Team

For more information see;

Professor Beth Armstrong
Business Director, Edith Cowan University
Telephone: (61 8) 6304 2769

Associate Professor Erin Godecke
Clinical Director, Edith Cowan University
Telephone: (61 8) 6304 5901

Associate Professor Natalie Ciccone
Therapy Fidelity Coordinator, Edith Cowan University
Telephone: (61 8) 6304 2047

Fiona Ellery
VERSE Trial Manager, Neuroscience Trials Australia
Telephone: (61 3) 9035 7042

Sanita Kratina
Research Project Manager, Edith Cowan University
Telephone: (61 8) 6304 5552

VERSE Trial Research Team

Dr Tapan Rai1, Professor Sandy Middleton2, Associate Professor Anne Whitworth3, Associate Professor Miranda L. Rose4, Professor Audrey Holland5, Professor Graeme J. Hankey6, Professor Dominique Cadilhac7, Professor Julie Bernhardt8.

1University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

2St Vincent’s & Mater Health Sydney and Australian Catholic University, Australia

3Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

4La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

5 University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA

6School of Medicine and Pharmacology, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia  

7 Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

8The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Student Projects

Emily Riseley – PhD Thesis Title: ‘Treatment fidelity in Very Early Rehabilitation in SpeEch (VERSE): What works in aphasia therapy?’

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