Research

Diffusion Tensor Weighted Image Processed by Dianne Patterson, PhD

Our faculty members work closely with undergraduate and graduate level students on a wide variety of research topics related to human communication and its disorders. Through a range of research experiences, our students have a unique opportunity to explore the boundaries of what is currently known on how we hear, perceive, produce and understand speech and language. Our students investigate innovative ways to assess and treat individuals with communication disorders in a dynamic and collaborative setting. Many students become co-authors on peer-reviewed publications.
See publications with student co-authors. 

Below is a description of our labs, personnel, and some current or previous research activities.

Aphasia Research Project
Director: Pelagie Beeson, PhD, CCC-SLP
Key Personnel: Kindle Rising, MS, CCC-SLP, Christie Schultz, MS, CCC-SLP, Chelsea Bayley, MS, CCC-SLP, Andrew DeMarco, M.S., CCC-SLP, Mara Goodman, Reva Wilheim
Location: Room 308
Links: Dr. Beeson’s Homepage

The Aphasia Research Project is an active research environment devoted to the study of aphasia and related disorders.  After spending several years examining the nature of naming impairments in aphasia and Alzheimer’s disease, our current efforts are directed toward the development of effective treatment protocols for various aspects of aphasia, acquired alexia, and acquired agraphia. Learn more about the Aphasia Research Project.

Arizona Human Electrophysiology and Auditory Development (AHEAD)
Director: Barbara Cone, PhD, CCC-A
Other Personnel: Stacey Trepanier, Jessie Ross, Kristen Baker, Amy Marin, Christine Bartelt, Curtis Vanture, Nydia Quintero, Darlene Kim
Location: Room 107; Desert Garden Room in GBC

cone-labWork in the AHEAD lab is focused on the electrophysiology of infant speech perception. How do infants develop the capacity to hear and understand speech? What are infants’ speech feature detection and discrimination abilities? How can we assay those abilities using psychophysical (behavioral) and electrophysiologic methods?

Our efforts are focused on auditory development in early infancy because this is the period during which the early detection and intervention for hearing loss can have enormous benefit. It is important to study normal auditory system development so that we can translate our research findings into insights and methods that will allow us to successfully treat the infant with hearing loss.

Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience Experience (ACNE) Lab
Director: Andrew Lotto, PhD
Other Personnel: Kathy “Nico” Carbonell and Dan Brenner
Location: Rooms 207 and 236
Links: Dr. Lotto’s Homepage / ACNS Society

acne-lab-graphic1The ACNE Lab addresses issues relating to the processing of complex acoustic signals such as speech, music, and other environmental sounds. Current projects include examining how people learn the sounds of a 2nd language and how one’s native language can interfere with this learning; investigating the ability of listeners to “tune” their perception to the particular characteristics of a speaker (e.g., understanding someone with a foreign accent or disordered speech); and studying how the design of cochlear implants and hearing aids can affect the ability of listeners to understand speech in complex listening environments. This multidisciplinary lab works closely with researchers in Psychology, Linguistics, Neurophysiology, and Electrical Engineering.

Auditory Perception and Amplification Lab
Director: Huanping Dai, PhD
Location: Room 230

Research in this lab is concerned with auditory perception of complex sounds by human listeners. On the empirical side, we design and carry out behavioral (psychophysical) experiments to study listeners’ ability to extract useful information from various sounds, and how this ability is affected by hearing disorders. On the theoretical side, we construct computational models to characterize the listeners’ individual listening behavior, and to predict their performance in perceptual tasks. While the primary focus of our research is on the basic-science aspects of auditory perception, we also work on applied issues related to hearing, including the application of statistical and psychophysical principles and methods to the diagnoses of hearing disorders, and the signal processing for amplification.

Bilingual Phonology Lab
Director: Leah Fabiano-Smith, PhD, CCC-SLP
Other Personnel:Trianna Oglivie, Megan Figueroa
Location: Room 501
Links: BPL website

Bilingual children acquire two languages in the same amount of time that monolingual children learn only one. How do they do that? The Bilingual Phonology Lab at the University of Arizona aims to find out. The long-term goals of the Bilingual Phonology Lab are to (1) determine the trajectory of typical acquisition in bilingual children, taking into consideration how the two languages of bilingual children interact; (2) determine how disorder presents itself in a child that maintains two speech sound systems, and (3) develop evidence-based assessment and intervention tools to help bilingual children with phonological disorders become effective communicators in both of their languages.

Brain-imaging of Language, Attention & Memory Lab (BLAMlab)
Director: Elena Plante, PhD, CCC-SLP
Other personnel: Kyle Almryde, BS, Lesley Fiddler, MS, CCC-SLP
Location: Room 334
Links:Dr. Plante’s Homepage

Working memory and attention are strongly interdependent dimensions of language processing, yet the brain networks that underlie these cognitive functions are not well understood, especially in the auditory domain. The BLAMlab uses brain mapping methods like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), along with electrophysiological tools such as electroencephalography (EEG) and behavioral testing to study the neuroanatomical and functional organization of speech perception.

Currently funded projects involve the cognitive modulation of primary language processing by attention and memory networks, effects of attention type and cognitive load on language perception, and the roles of cortical-subcortical interactions in serving these cognitive processes.

L4 Lab: Language, Learning, Literacy, Lexicon
Director: Mary Alt, PhD, CCC-SLP
Project Director: Cecilia Figueroa, MS, CCC-SLP
Location: Rooms 322/324
Links: L4 Lab’s website

l4labThe L4 Lab’s research is centered on answering this question: How do people learn words and the concepts associated with those words? The answers to this question are fundamental to our understanding of language development and disorders of language and learning. My lab approaches this larger question from three angles: 1) word learning (learning the names of things), 2) concept learning (learning the meanings of the words), and 3) clarifying how learning manifests in people who are bilingual. My research often integrates these three components, and is extending findings from our lab into clinically-driven research.

Language Neuroscience Lab
Director: Stephen Wilson, PhD
Other Personnel: Alexa Bautista, Julia Fisher, Genevieve Lamair-Orosco, Angelica McCarron, Stephanie Yagata, Melodie Yen
Location: Rooms 310
Links: Language Neuroscience Lab

Research in the Neurolinguistics Laboratory focuses on understanding the neural basis of language. We combine structural and functional neuroimaging techniques with linguistic analysis to study language processing, and how it breaks down in patients with different kinds of aphasia. We work with patients with aphasias of various etiologies, including stroke and neurodegenerative disease. Language domains of particular interest are syntactic processing and lexical access.

Listening in Multi-source Environments (LIME) Lab
Director: Nicole Marrone, PhD, CCC-A
Other Personnel: Rachel Van Oosbree, Brittany Tennyson, Morgan Nelson, Carly Regan, Lua Hedayati, and James Shehorn
Location: Rooms 403 and 109 (soundfield)

In the LIME Lab, our research seeks to improve quality of life and quality of care for adults living with hearing loss. We take an ecological and biopsychosocial approach to the study of communication. We are interested in the links between auditory and cognitive abilities that affect communication when using hearing aids, outcomes of rehabilitative interventions, and how changes in hearing impact daily life. Our research group includes undergraduates, graduate students, and clinical faculty collaborators from The University of Arizona Hearing Clinics.

The Plante Lab
Director: Elena Plante, PhD, CCC-SLP
Other Personnel: Rebecca Vance, MS, CCC-SLP, Diane Patterson, PhD, Lindsay Spivey, BS, Kyle Almryde, BS
Location: Room 334
Links: Dr. Plante’s Homepage

Current work in Dr. Plante’s lab focuses on learning and assessment. The lab is focused on discovering how both children and adults with developmental language disorders learn from a behavioral and neurobiological perspective. Behavioral studies are designed to determine what conditions facilitate rapid learning and whether those with language impairment benefit from the same factors that facilitate learning for non-impaired individuals. Functional magnetic resonance imaging studies are designed to examine whether the neural resources dedicated to learning are the same for imapaired and normal learners.

Speech Acoustics Lab
Director: Brad Story, PhD, and Kate Bunton, PhD, CCC-SLP
Other Personnel: Megan Kittleson, Kim Neely, Lisa Gordon, Sara McDonald
Location: Room 307
Links: Speech Acoustics Lab webpage

Research in the Speech Acoustics Laboratory is focused on the following areas: speech acoustics and articulation (kinematics) related to both development of speech production and disordered speech production, mechanical measures of velopharyngeal function, speech simulation and volumetric imaging of the vocal tract. Longitudinal data collection is underway involving children ages 2-6 years and adults with speech disorders. Computerized models are used in our laboratory to aid in understanding how the physical shapes and sizes of both the voice source components and the vocal tract contribute to the sound of the human voice.

Speech, Language and Brain Laboratory (SLAB lab)
Directors: Gayle DeDe, PhD, CCC-SLP, and Edwin Maas, PhD
Location: Rooms 332 and 509

slablabResearch in the SLAB lab focuses on speech and language processing across the lifespan in unimpaired individuals and in various populations with speech and/or language disorders, such as aphasia, apraxia of speech, and phonological disorders. An overarching question of interest is: What is the underlying nature of a given speech or language disorder? Two important features of most projects in the lab are (1) an emphasis on the time course of processing, and (2) an emphasis on relating speech and language processing to other cognitive or perceptual skills.

There are various opportunities to become involved with the research in the SLAB lab, depending on your interests and time availability. To discuss these opportunities, or for more information about our research, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Speech Research Lab
Director: Jeannette Hoit, PhD, CCC-SLP, and Kate Bunton, PhD, CCC-SLP
Other Personnel: Caety Chong, Amy Lougher, Kristen Rumery
Location: Room 307
Links: Speech Acoustics Lab webpage

jenny-in-lab-4-07

Research projects in the speech research lab focus on normal and abnormal speech motor control. Many of the projects have been devoted to understanding the influence of development and aging on respiratory, laryngeal, and velopharyngeal function during speech production. Others have been designed to elucidate the impact of linguistic and biomechanic variables on speech physiology, vocal characteristics of skilled performers, and mechanisms underlying interactions between ventilatory drives and speech production requirements.

Voice Research Laboratory
Director: Robin Samlan, PhD, CCC-SLP
Other Personnel: Alexa Bautista
Location: Room 301

Work in the Voice Research Lab is centered around understanding how features of voice production affect voice quality. The lab is approaching this question using high-speed video of vocal fold vibration, acoustic and aerodynamic studies, computational modeling, and listening studies. The long-term goal of the work is to improve voice evaluation and treatment.

WINGSS (Working Investigations of Novel Genes for Speech and Song)
Director: Julie Miller, PhD
Key Personnel: Stephanie J. Munger, Research Specialist
Location: Gould Simpson 419
Links: Dr. Miller’s webpage

Work in the WINGSS laboratory focuses on the identification and characterization of molecular pathways in the brain that support speech mechanisms. We carry out these investigations in the zebra finch songbird model which shares a number of similarities to human vocal learning and production. Methods include a combination of behavioral, molecular, biochemical, electrophysiological and bioinformatic approaches that enable us to link changes at the molecular/cellular levels to alterations in neural circuits for song behavior. This is studied with respect to normal song development and on-going maintenance of learned vocalizations. We also examine perturbations of the song system, to mimic vocal problems associated with human disorders.