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Margaret Lehman Blake, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Associate Professor

Dr. Blake received her master's degree from Arizona State University and her doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh. She completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Blake teaches undergraduate anatomy & neuroanatomy courses, and graduate courses in disorders of speech/language/cognition in adults. Her primary research interest is communication disorders due to right hemisphere brain damage and mild TBI.

Right Hemisphere Brain Damage (RHD)

The right side of the brain plays an important role in communication, primarily in understanding what someone means as opposed to what they say. Understanding intended meaning involves identifying and integrating different kinds of cues from the context. In a conversation, the communicative context broadly includes who you’re talking to, how well you know them, what exactly they say, how they say it (e.g., their tone of voice), their body language and facial expression, as well as the environment in which you’re communicating. The right side of the brain is critical for identifying and integrating all of these cues that help you figure out what someone really means: if they’re joking, being sarcastic, or being truthful; if they’re anxious or sad; or if they’re full of uncontainable joy.

After damage to the right side of the brain, problems with understanding these kinds of cues cause subtle but critical changes to communication that result in misunderstandings. My research focuses on identifying where the breakdowns occur in the comprehension process, and how best to assess and treat them.

Another disorder associated with RHD is unilateral neglect. This is a disorder of attention in which damage to specific areas of the brain prevent the person from fully “seeing” or “hearing” things in one side of space. The problem isn’t with vision or hearing, but in paying attention to sights and sounds that come from one side (with right brain damage, the neglected items are in the left side of space). Various forms of unilateral neglect exist. They can affect reading and writing (‘seeing’ words on both sides of the page), dressing (dressing both the left and right side of the body), and navigating the environment (walking down a hallway without bumping into the wall), and communication. My research focuses on evaluating some of the most commonly used treatment techniques to determine whether or not they are really effective in increasing attention.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Concussions, also known as mild traumatic brain injuries, generally are thought to be temporary events. However, they can have lasting consequences on brain function and success in social and work environments. In collaboration with Summer Ott, PsyD, Director of the Memorial Hermann Ironman Sports Medicine Institute Concussion Program UT Medical School at Houston, I explore various aspects of brain injury assessment, treatment, and outcomes.

 

Education

  • Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, Major: Communication Science and Disorders
  • M.S., Arizona State University, Major: Speech and Hearing Science
  • B.S., Colorado State University, Major: Communication Disorders, Minor: Anatomy and Neurobiology

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Teaching

Acquired Cognitive Disorders (COMD 6328)

Description, evaluation, and treatment of cognitive disorders due to traumatic brain injury, right hemisphere stroke, and dementia.

Research Methods in ComD (COMD 6261)

Overview of research methods in communication disorders.  Students learn critical thinking skills needed to develop questions and be effective consumers of research.

Neuroscience for Communication (COMD 4333)

Foundations of neuroanatomy and neurophysiology relevant to speech, language, cognition, and swallowing.

Anatomy for Communication (COMD 2376)

Anatomic and physiologic mechanisms underlying swallowing, language, speech and other communication modalities. Systems covered include respiration, phonation, articulation/resonance, deglutition, and the nervous system.

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Research Interests

Email Dr. Blake for information about participating in a research project.

Language and communication deficits associated with right hemisphere brain damage; short- and long-term consequences of mild TBI and sports concussion.

Current Research Project

Right hemisphere damage

Comprehension: Current studies are underway to explore where breakdowns occur in identifying and integrating cues that convey meaning. The purpose is to determine whether some cues (e.g., character motives or spatial relationships) are ‘easier’ to use than others (e.g., cause-effect or timing) after damage to the right side of the brain.

Unilateral neglect: This is a disorder of attention in which people are no longer aware of things or people that appear in the left side of space. Current studies are underway to evaluate the effectiveness of some of the most common treatment techniques (e.g., using a red line or verbal reminders).

Read more about Dr. Blake's research »

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Research Grants

  • “The influence of external cues on visuospatial neglect” - TSHFoundation Research Grant (2016).
  • “Cognitive Strategy Training” - University of Houston CLASS Grant In Aid Program (2012).
  • “Cognitive Rest and Recovery from Concussion” - University of Houston Small Grants Program (2011).
  • “Treatment for language processing deficits in adults with right brain damage” (Co-PI with C.A.Tompkins) - National Institutes of Health/NIDCD (R01)
  • “Inference processes in adults with right brain damage.” - National Institutes of Health/NIDCD (R03)

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Selected Publications

Journal Articles

  •  Blake, M.L.,  Ott, S., Villanyi, E., Kazhuro, K. & Schatz, P. (2015). Influence of language of administration on ImPACT performance by Bilingual Spanish-English college students. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology. Published online April 12, 2015. doi:10.1093/arclin/acv021

  •  Blake, M.T.,  Tompkins, C., Scharp, V., Meigh, K., & Wambaugh, J. (2014). Contextual Constraint Treatment for coarse coding deficit in adults with right hemisphere brain damage: Generalization to narrative discourse comprehension. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, Published online July 1, 2014. DOI: 10.1080/09602011.2014.932290

  • Blake, M.T.,  Frymark, T., & Venedikov, R. (2012). An Evidence-Based Systematic Review on Communication Treatments for Individuals with Right Hemisphere Brain Damage. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 22, Published online Aug 9, 2012 as doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2012/12-0021)
  • Tompkins, C.A., Scharp, V., Meigh, K.,  Blake, M.T.,  & Wambaugh, J. (2012). Generalization of a novel, implicit treatment for coarse coding deficit in right hemisphere brain damage: A single subject experiment. Aphasiology, 26, 689-708.
  • Tompkins, C.A., Blake, M.T., Wambaugh, J., & Meigh, K. (2011). A novel, implicit treatment for language comprehension processes in right hemisphere brain damage: Phase I data. Aphasiology, First published on: 22 March 2011 (iFirst); DOI: 10.1080/02687038.2010.539784
  • Blake, M.L. (2007) Perspectives on treatment for communication deficits associated with right hemisphere brain damage. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 16, 331-342.

Chapters

  • Blake, M.L. & Conners, J. (in press). Right hemisphere syndrome. In L.L.LaPointe (Ed.), Aphasia and Related Neurogenic Language Disorders. (pp. 213-224). New York: Thieme
  • Blake, M.L. (in press). Right Hemisphere Pragmatic Disorders. In L.Cummings (Ed). Research in Clinical Pragmatics, Springer.
  • Blake, M.L. (2016). Cognitive communication disorders associated with right hemisphere brain damage. In M.L Kimbarow (Ed.) Cognitive Communication Disorders (2nd Edn). (pp. 129-185). San Diego: Plural Publishers.
  • Blake, M.L. (2010). Communication deficits associated with right hemisphere brain damage. In J..S Damico, N. Muller & M.J. Ball (Eds.) The Handbook of Language and Speech Disorders, Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Blake, M.L. & Tompkins, C.A. (2008). Treatment efficacy: Cognitive-communication disorders resulting from right hemisphere brain damage. Rockville, MD, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
  • Myers, P.S. & Blake, M.L. (2008). Communication disorders associated with right hemisphere damage. In R.Chapey (Ed.) Language Intervention Strategies in Aphasia and Related Neurogenic Communication Disorders (5th Edn). (pp. 963-987). Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins.
  • Blake, M.L. (2006). Disorders associated with right brain injury. In E. Hardy (Ed.) Patient and Caregiver Handouts for Adult Rehabilitation. (pp. 147-149). Austin, TX. Pro-Ed.

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Professional Activities

  • Publications Editor – Clinical Aphasiology Conference
  • Associate Editor - Journal of Speech-Language-Hearing Research, Language Section
  • Past-President - Academy of Neurogenic Communication Disorders & Sciences 
  • Reviewer - ASHA Students Preparing for Academic & Research Careers (SPARC) Award 
  • Workshops
    • 2-day workshops on Management of Cognitive-Communication Disorders Associated with Right Hemisphere Brain Damage.
      • Alaska Speech-Language Hearing Association (October 2015)
      • Rehab Institute of Chicago Academy. (April 2014)
      • Nevada Speech-Language Hearing Association conference, Reno, NV. (April 2013)

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Honors

  • Teaching Excellence Award – University of Houston, Spring 2015
  • Editors AwardJournal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research
    Tompkins, C.A., Baumgaertner, A., Lehman, M.T., and Fassbinder, W. (2000) Mechanisms of discourse comprehension impairment after right hemisphere brain damage: Suppression and enhancement in lexical ambiguity resolution. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 43, 62-78.

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Affiliations and Links

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