Pelagie M Beeson

Pelagie M Beeson

Professor, Speech/Language and Hearing
Professor, Cognitive Science - GIDP
Department Head, Speech/Language and Hearing
Professor, BIO5 Institute
(520) 621-9879

Research Interest

My research is directed toward understanding the neural substrates of spoken and written language, as well as the nature and treatment of acquired impairments of language in adults. This includes the development and evaluation of behavioral treatment approaches for aphasia, alexia, and agraphia. In our lab, we work with adults with acquired language impairment due to brain damage associated with stroke, head injury, and progressive disease. Neurologically healthy adults participate as control subjects.


Henry, M. L., Beeson, P. M., Alexander, G. E., & Rapcsak, S. Z. (2012). Written language impairments in primary progressive aphasia: A reflection of damage to central semantic and phonological processes. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24, 261-75.
BIO5 Collaborators
Gene E Alexander, Pelagie M Beeson
Beeson, P., Beeson, P. M., Kim, E. S., Rapcsak, S. Z., & Andersen, S. (2011). Multimodal alexia: neuropsychological mechanisms and implications for treatment. Neuropsychologia.
Roberts, D. J., Woollams, A. M., Kim, E., Beeson, P. M., Rapcsak, S. Z., & A., M. (2013). Efficient visual object and word recognition relies on high spatial frequency coding in the left posterior fusiform gyrus: Evidence from a case-series of patients with ventral occipito-temporal cortex damage. Cerebral Cortex, 23(11), 2568-2580.

PMID: 22923086;PMCID: PMC3792736;Abstract:

Recent visual neuroscience investigations suggest that ventral occipito-temporal cortex is retinotopically organized, with high acuity foveal input projecting primarily to the posterior fusiform gyrus (pFG), making this region crucial for coding high spatial frequency information. Because high spatial frequencies are critical for fine-grained visual discrimination, we hypothesized that damage to the left pFG should have an adverse effect not only on efficient reading, as observed in pure alexia, but also on the processing of complex non-orthographic visual stimuli. Consistent with this hypothesis, we obtained evidence that a large case series (n = 20) of patients with lesions centered on left pFG: 1) Exhibited reduced sensitivity to high spatial frequencies; 2) demonstrated prolonged response latencies both in reading (pure alexia) and object naming; and 3) were especially sensitive to visual complexity and similarity when discriminating between novel visual patterns. These results suggest that the patients' dual reading and non-orthographic recognition impairments have a common underlying mechanism and reflect the loss of high spatial frequency visual information normally coded in the left pFG. © 2012 The Author.

Beeson, P. M. (1999). Treating acquired writing impairment: Strengthening graphemic representations. Aphasiology, 13(9-11), 767-785.


A writing treatment protocol was designed for a 75 year-old man with severe Wernicke's aphasia. Four treatment phases were implemented: (1) a multiple baseline design that documented improvement in single-word writing for targeted words; (2) a clinician-directed home program that increased the corpus of correctly-spelled single words; (3) another multiple baseline series that documented acquisition of additional written words, as well as pragmatic training in the use of single-word writing to support conversational communication; and (4) a self-directed home treatment to further expand written vocabulary. The patient's acquisition of targeted words suggested an item-specific treatment effect that strengthened weakened graphemic representations. The patient's continued acquisition of correctly spelled words during the self-directed home treatment supported the use of this approach to supplement more traditional clinician-directed treatment.

Beeson, P. M., Bayley, C., Shultz, C., & Rising, K. (2018). Maximising recovery from aphasia with central and peripheral agraphia: The benefit of sequential treatments. Neuropsychological rehabilitation, 1-27.

Maximal recovery from acquired language impairment may require progression from one behavioural treatment protocol to the next in order to build upon residual and relearned cognitive-linguistic and sensory-motor processes. We present a five-stage treatment sequence that was initiated at one year post stroke in a woman with acquired impairments of spoken and written language. As is typical of individuals with left perisylvian damage, she demonstrated marked impairment of phonological retrieval and sublexical phonology, but she also faced additional challenges due to impaired letter shape knowledge and visual attention. The treatment sequence included (1) written spelling of targeted words, (2) retraining sublexical sound-to-letter correspondences and phonological manipulation skills, (3) training strategic approaches to maximise interactive use of lexical, phonological, and orthographic knowledge, (4) lexical retrieval of spoken words, and finally (5) sentence-level stimulation to improve grammatical form of written narratives. This Phase II clinical study documented positive direct treatment outcomes along with evidence of a significant reduction in the underlying deficits and generalisation to untrained items and language tasks. Improvements on a comprehensive assessment battery were realised as functional gains in everyday written and spoken communication, including improved lexical retrieval and grammatical complexity of written narratives. This case provides a valuable example of the cumulative therapeutic benefit of sequential application of theoretically motivated treatment protocols.