Before it happened, Carl McIntyre was an actor. Not exactly a Hollywood phenom, but a successful actor nonetheless with a couple of silver screen roles and a steady stream of television, stage and commercial gigs to his credit. Communication was his commodity.

But on the evening of September 15, 2005, while rocking his little boy to sleep, Carl’s right arm and leg suddenly grew numb and then went completely dead. A large blood clot had dislodged from Carl’s heart, traveling up to his brain and wedging itself inside a major artery, cutting off the blood supply and depriving most of his left hemisphere of oxygen.

Brain tissue starved of oxygen dies within minutes to hours, and once dead, it doesn’t regenerate. This is a stroke and Carl’s was massive.

He didn’t know it at the time but the stroke had destroyed virtually all of his brain’s language control circuits. In one instant, in his prime at age 44 with a wife and three young children, Carl acquired severe aphasia, loss of language ability due to brain injury.

Aphasia affects more Americans than spinal cord injury and cerebral palsy combined. It is as prevalent as Parkinson’s disease or schizophrenia, yet relatively few people have heard of aphasia or realize its devastating effects. The disorder is caused by brain lesions that interfere with the neurological process that translates thought into speech.

For the past 10 years, Greg Hickok, cognitive sciences professor and Center for Language Science director, has been using fMRI to study this region of the brain and how neural abnormalities impact speech and language abilities in stroke victims. He has received more than $6 million from the National Institutes of Health to fund his work, including a landmark aphasia study in which Carl is a participant.

Greg’s research has been able to identify some aspects of Carl’s language problem that may help understand what is going wrong and maybe, just maybe, how to partially remedy it.

The School of Social Sciences invites you to join Greg and Carl on November 18 for the first event in the school’s 2013-14 Expert Series. The evening will begin at 6:00 p.m. in Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway, Room 1517 and feature a screening of Carl’s award-winning short film Aphasia, a documentary which chronicles his experience. Following the film, Carl and Greg will give a short presentation and answer questions about aphasia research being conducted at UCI. A reception will follow.

The event is sponsored by UC Irvine Center for Language Science, Center for Hearing Research, Multisite Aphasia Research Consortium, and School of Social Sciences. For further information, please contact Rosemarie Swatez, or 949-824-2511.

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