Research Labs

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.

Director: Pelagie Beeson, PhD, CCC-SLP

Key Personnel: Kindle Rising, MS, CCC-SLP

Location: Room 308

Links: Dr. Beeson’s website

The Aphasia Research Project is an active research environment devoted to the study of aphasia and related disorders. Our efforts are directed toward understanding the nature of aphasia caused by stroke and other neurological disorders, and developing effective treatments for acquired impairments of spoken and written language. Learn more about the Aphasia Research Project.

Director: Barbara Cone, PhD, CCC-A

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Jennifer Casteix

Key Collaborators: David Velenovsky, PhD, CCC-A, Aneta Kielar, PhD, Arve Asbjornsen, PhD (University of Bergen, Norway)

Student Research Assistants: Barrett St. George, Ali Pourjavid, and Bryan Wong

Location: Room 315C

The AHEAD Lab is now the home of the Tinnitus Project, a collaboration between Aneta Kielar, David Velenovsky and Barbara Cone.  The Tinnitus Project is a clinical research project investigating neuromodulation and active listening treatments as a therapy for reducing the perception of tinnitus. For more information about this research, contact Barbara Cone at conewess@arizona.edu.

Work 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.

Director: Nicole Marrone, PhD, CCC-A

Key Personnel: Aileen Wong, AuD, CCC-A

Student Researchers: Bryan Wong and Alyssa Torres

Location: Rooms 403, 109 (soundfield), and 207

In the Audiologic Rehabilitation Lab, our research seeks to improve quality of life and quality of care for adults living with hearing loss, with an emphasis on health equity. 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 for individuals and their families. Our research group includes undergraduates, graduate students, and clinical faculty collaborators from the University of Arizona Hearing Clinics. Our NIH-funded research seeks to reduce disparities in access to hearing health care in collaboration with faculty and community members in public health, psychology, Spanish, and translation studies (“Oyendo Bien” or Hearing Well). Our lab members also lead several community-engaged outreach projects including: UA Living Well with Hearing Loss program, The Protect Your Ears Project (an afterschool hearing conservation program), Viviendo Bien con Pérdida Auditiva (Spanish-language peer support), and the Living Well with Hearing Loss community lecture series.

Director: Huanping Dai, PhD

Location: Room 308

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.

Director: David Velenovsky, PhD, CCC-A

Faculty Members: Linda Norrix, PhD, CCC-A 

Student Researchers:

Location: SLHS Rooms 226 and 230

Members of the “Reflectance Lab” have diverse research interests including studies exploring pupilometry as a measure of cognitive load, auditory information processing, the effects of high noise levels on hearing as well as acoustic reflex measures using wideband power reflectance and transmittance. Beyond the goal of pursuing research that contributes to a better understanding of human auditory function, we also strive to increase interest in hearing and hearing science among undergraduate and graduate students.

Director: Leah Kappa, PhD

Student Researchers: Jessica Sickels, and Chelye Smith

Location: Room 334

The Language and Cognition Lab focuses on the interaction between language and cognitive abilities, with a specific focus on executive functioning (e.g., memory, attention, planning), in individuals with typical and disordered language development. We address questions about the effects of self-directed language on executive function performance, the potential contribution of executive function skills to the process of language learning, and the effectiveness of executive function intervention programs for improving cognitive and/or language abilities in children.

Director: Mary Alt, PhD, CCC-SLP

Key Personnel: Cecilia Figueroa, MS, CCC-SLP (Project Director)

Location: Rooms 322/324

Links: L4 Lab website

The 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.

Director: Aneta Kielar, PhD

Key Personnel:

Location: Room 332

Links: Dr. Kielar's website

The Language and Neuroimaging Research Lab explores neural correlates of language processing. We use a combination of structural and functional neuroimaging techniques to understand how neural dynamics are impacted by stroke, neurodegenerative disorders and aging. We are interested in recovery of function, and treatment approaches involving speech-language therapy in combination with noninvasive brain stimulation techniques, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS).

Director: Meghan Darling-White, PhD, CCC-SLP

Location: Rooms 301 and 530

Links: Motor Speech Research Lab website

The long-term goal of the Motor Speech Research lab is to develop and validate evidence-based interventions that improve speech production skills in people with motor speech disorders. To address this goal, our lab uses a combination of kinematic, aerodynamic, acoustic and perceptual analyses to examine how physiologic changes to the speech subsystems (e.g., respiratory, phonatory, articulatory) impact speech intelligibility and naturalness. Our current work focuses on respiratory function during speech production in children with cerebral palsy.

Director: Elena Plante, PhD, CCC-SLP

Key Personnel: Rebecca Vance, MS, CCC-SLP, Diane Patterson, PhD, Trianna Oglivie, PhD, CCC-SLP, 

Location: Room 334

Links: The Plante Lab website

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 impaired and normal learners.

Directors: Brad Story, PhD, and Kate Bunton, PhD, CCC-SLP

Location: Room 307

Links: Speech Acoustics and Physiology Lab website

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.

Director: Robin Samlan, PhD, CCC-SLP

Other Personnel: Dori Smith, DMA, MS, CCC-SLP; Natalie Monahan, MS, CCC-SLP; Amanda Stark, MS, CCC-SLP

Location: Room 301

Links: University of Arizona Voice Lab

Our long-term goal in the Voice Lab is to improve the diagnosis and treatment of breathy voice disorders, particularly the breathy/weak voices associated with age-related dysphonia, vocal fold paralysis, and Parkinson disease. We use tools such as laryngeal high-speed video of vocal fold vibration, acoustic and aerodynamic studies, computational modeling, and listening studies in our work.

Director: Julie Miller, PhD

Location: Gould Simpson, Room 423

Links: Dr. Miller’s website

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.