Helping stroke victims relearn to speak, write

How do children learn to talk and then to write? Can people with speech or writing impairments caused by stroke or other brain damage relearn lost skills?

Pélagie M. Beeson is among the leading scientists using new technologies and insights into the workings of the brain to answer such questions.

She described her methods and findings last month at the UA College of Science’s annual Science Lecture Series, The Evolving Brain.

As in past years, the Arizona Senior Academy is bringing encore lectures to east-side audiences. Beeson will be at the academy to present The Literate Brain at 3:30 p.m. today.

Beeson is professor and head of the department of speech, language and hearing science at the UA.

Her research interests include the study of the cognitive processes and neural substrates that support spoken and written language, and the nature and treatment of language impairments associated with stroke and progressive neurological disease.

Written language represents a relatively recent cultural invention, and, unlike the development of spoken language, literacy requires explicit and prolonged instruction. How is this accomplished?

Do unique regions of the brain develop in support of reading and spelling or are these skills dependent upon brain regions involved in other perceptual and cognitive processes?

Beeson received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Kansas, and her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona.


String quartet fun with the classics

If a great composer is having fun, it’s likely that you will, too.

So look for a good time on Tuesday when the Esperanza Chamber Ensemble plays lighthearted works by Haydn and Mozart.

Haydn’s “London Trio No. 1 in C Major” and Mozart’s “Flute Quartet No. 1 in D Major” are both on the bill when flutist Alexander Lipay, violinist Anna Gendler, violist Melissa Hamilton and cellist Theodore Buchholz — all of whom also play with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra — take the stage for an 11:30 a.m. concert at Academy Village’s Arizona Senior Academy.

If there are serious moments in the Haydn and enough complexity to satisfy discerning listeners, it’s nonetheless the composer’s wit and sparkle that shine mostly brilliantly here, with the flute taking the lead.

In the Mozart, the forces grow from three to four, but the flute is still the Pied Piper, leading the band in a light, buoyant and charming piece.

Even programs that are light and saucy require a dessert; cellist Buchholz says the group just might have one in reserve.

Susan Nisbett


Seminars examine avoiding water scarcity

Southwest history — including the flourishing and demise of cultures and peoples — is replete with times of water abundance and scarcity, with long stretches of what are now called mega-droughts. We may be in such a drought now.

Even more seriously, man-induced climatic change is expected to hit the desert Southwest harshly.

What is our water future in Tucson and the desert Southwest? What can we do to modify these effects?

The Arizona Senior Academy is hosting four weekly water sustainability seminars starting Wednesday.

Each two-hour seminar will begin at 2:30 p.m. and lay out key parts of the overall water picture and discuss actions to make water go further.

Wednesday’s first seminar, Demands and Declines in Tucson Water Use, will be given by Gary Woodard, former associate director in the University of Arizona’s department of hydrological sciences and now a research associate with Montgomery Associates, a nationwide water-consulting firm.

Good news is evident. Groundwater pumping and recharge are more in equilibrium, helped by Central Arizona Project water being pumped into aquifers. Water demand is less than predicted.

On the other side of the ledger, tough questions loom. What happens if Colorado River water is less available to Arizona and Tucson? How can building and land-use practices be changed to use graywater for irrigation?

Three seminars follow:

  • April 3: Lincoln Perino, Cooperative Extension lecturer and founder of Ethos Water Harvesting, will describe the benefits of water harvesting with berms, basins and tanks.
  • April 9: Saguaro National Park ecologists and hydrologists will show how the park’s rocks and geology capture and store rainwater, a natural water-harvesting system.
  • April 16: The nearby Cienega National Conservation Area is a special, water-requiring landscape of national importance. Leaders of the Cienega Watershed Partnership will outline the challenges there and outline some solutions.

Ted Hullar

March 27

Red cells: Hardly a communist conspiracy

Is the red cell a new communist plot? Is Putin up to no good?

No! Learn about our own red cells, or erythrocytes, March 27 at 3:30 p.m. when the Arizona Senior Academy’s monthly health lecture features Dr. Robert Smith.

Why does the red cell lack a nucleus? Why does a red cell change its shape? What do red cells do when exposed to stress and what does that mean physiologically? How do changes in the oxygen-carrying ability of hemoglobin help the body bring more oxygen to areas in need?

Smith’s talk, The Incredible Red Cell, will discuss these questions and speak about the structure, function and physiology of the red cell.

Also covered will be iron deficiency anemia and hematology in seniors.

Smith is a retired clinical professor of medicine at the State University of New York at Syracuse and founder of Syracuse Hematology Oncology.

He received an M.D. degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where he completed a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in hematology. He later served as a flight surgeon in the Air Force, then joined the faculty at the University Hospital/SUNY in Syracuse.

As a member of the Cancer and Acute Leukemia Group, he has participated in research in red cell metabolism and clinical research.

Walter Freedman