Seven minutes in stroke - Caterina Breitenstein

1. What inspired you towards neuroscience?
Trained as a clinical psychologist, I have always been fascinated with human behavior, particularly with social interactions. With the emergence of cognitive neuroscience, I wanted to explore the neural basis of successful and unsuccessful verbal and nonverbal interactions.

2. Why stroke?
To me, post-stroke aphasia is one of the most devastating human conditions. Patients frequently appear physically unharmed, but are mentally „locked in“ because of their inability to successfully interact with other humans.

3. What have been the highs so far?
I recently had the privileg to be the local principal investigator of the to-date largest randomised controlled clinical trial (RCT) on the effectiveness of intensive speech and language therapy/SLT in chronic post-stroke aphasisa. The results demonstrated statistical superiority of intensive SLT compared to no or low intensity SLT and have been accepted for publication by the prestigous medical journal The Lancet []. I am confident that the results will contribute to improved treatment options for stroke patients with aphasia in the intermediate future.

4. What have been the lows?
Having worked at a neurology department for the past 17 years, I experienced how limited the research devoted to post-stroke aphasia has been in the medical field. Significantly more contributions in terms of publications and grants have been made in the field of physical post-stroke symptoms. The sad consequence has been that access to SLT has become increasingly difficult for stroke patients with aphasia.

5. How do you balance work life with the needs of home life?
This is clearly not one of my strenghts. It feels like an ongoing struggle between following my passion for work and spending time with my two lovely children and my husband. So it is actually a constant ‚imbalance‘, one way or the other…

6. Who are your most important mentors and how did you find them?
As a postdoc, I worked for two years with Diana Van Lancker Sidtis at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles (USA). Diana inspired me to unorthodox ways of thinking in solving ‚the brain puzzle‘ – and taught me that food is of minor importance when you are analysing data from one of your recently completed studies! Stefan Knecht and E. Bernd Ringelstein (formerly Dept. of Neurology, University of Muenster, Germany) shared my passion for language from their neurologists‘ perspectives and were always highly supportive of my scientific projects.

7. What are your most important collaborations and how have you built them?

The FCET2EC study group designed and realized the above mentioned RCT on SLT effectiveness in chronic aphasia. Without the joint expertise of the group members, the study would have never accomplished. The Collaboration of Aphasia Trialists (CAT) initiative lead by Marian Brady (University of Glasgow, UK) got me involved with aphasisa experts worldwide. In this collaboration, we are currently aiming to develop international core outcome sets (COS) for aphasia research as well as to establish an international registry for routine care aphasia outcome data. I consider both projects to be of outmost importance in the field of aphasia.

Caterina is from the Dept. of General Neurology with Institute for Translational Neurology
University of Muenster, Germany she can be contacted at

Seven minutes in stroke - Caterina Breitenstein Reviewed by Carmen Lahiff-Jenkins on Monday, March 20, 2017 Rating: 5
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