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Training

Aneta Kielar

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?
A: I completed my graduate training in Cognition and Perception at Western University in London, Ontario. My dissertation investigated processing of inflectional and derivational morphology using priming, ERPs and fMRI. While at Western, I also studied language processing in patients affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

After completion of my graduate work, I moved to Northwestern University, where I conducted neuroimaging studies using fMRI and ERPs investigating morpho-syntactic and semantic processing in healthy adults, patients with post-stroke aphasia, and Primary Progressive Aphasia.

Currently, I am a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Health Sciences, and the University of Toronto. At the Rotman, I study language processing in patients with post-stroke and Primary Progressive Aphasia, using neuropsychological measures, behavioral experiments, and both structural and functional neuroimaging. In addition, I am interested in neuroplasticity and application of noninvasive brain stimulation techniques (e.g., TMS, tDCS) for the treatment of aphasia and dementia.

Q: What compelled you to pursue stroke research?
A:  In the fourth year of my undergraduate program at the University of Toronto, I had an opportunity to work as a volunteer in the speech-language department at the Riverdale Hospital.  During that time I worked closely with speech-language pathologists and patients in various stages after stroke. I assisted in the individual speech-language therapy and group sessions. This experience sparked my interest in language research and the effects of stroke on language functions. During my postdoctoral work I have been investigating effects of stroke and dementia on language and cortical function.

Q: What is the focus of your research?
A: My current research examines neural and cognitive factors which affect language functions, and how these are influenced by stroke, neurological disorders, and how they change with aging. In my research, I use a combination of cognitive measures and multimodal neuroimaging methods, with a goal to understand the neural correlates of language comprehension and production. To answer these questions, I use MEG and EEG, guided by structural MRI and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), to map the neural networks that participate in language comprehension. More recently, I have been investigating modulation of oscillatory neural activity in EEG and MEG in response to semantic and syntactic information in healthy adults, patients with post-stroke aphasia, PPA, and dementia.  In a different line of research, I use resting MEG and fMRI measures to identify cortical tissue that is preserved but dysfunctional after stroke.

Q: At what stage are you in your research, and what are your current future plans?
A: I am in the final stages of my postdoctoral fellowship. As I move forward in my academic career, I intend to explore the neural mechanisms underlying language representation and processing, how they change across the lifespan, and are impacted by healthy aging, stroke, and neurodegenerative disorders. I would like to build on my graduate and postdoctoral experience to investigate the interaction between cognitive factors such as working memory capacity, attention, executive functions and language comprehension and production performance, especially in relation to brain-based language and cognitive disorders, and aging. I would like to extend my work to investigate the role of neuroplasticity in the recovery of language and cognitive functions after stroke, and augmentation of language rehabilitation with noninvasive brain stimulation.

Q: How do you and others benefit from being part of the National Trainee Association?
A: CPSR-NTA is a great organization that facilitates communication and collaboration between clinical and basic researchers. Because my research is at the intersection between the basic and clinical areas, active collaboration with other research scientists in the area of stroke recovery is very important to me. The Stroke Program in Neurorecovery (SPIN) has been extremely valuable to me, as it provides a well-rounded overview of various approaches to stroke research, from the cellular level to whole-brain research.

Q: What other interests do you have?
A:  In my free time I like to watch movies, read novels, bike, and I enjoy travel.