Three faculty members from the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Communication Disorders and Sciences have received prestigious awards from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation.
Nichol Castro, Christopher Heffner, and Thea Knowles, all assistant professors, received New Investigator Research Grants Nov. 18 at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
Only 10 grants are awarded each year.
New Investigator Research Grants are designed to help faculty members gather preliminary data to initiate large-scale federal grant applications.
Castro’s research aims to better understand the mechanism that supports positive treatment outcomes for people with aphasia, a language disorder that often occurs when a person experiences a stroke in the left hemisphere of the brain.
“Many people with aphasia have significant difficulty retrieving words from memory,” Castro explains. “While existing treatments for word retrieval disorders often lead to positive results for words formed during treatment, such as ‘dog’, we tend to see much smaller improvement in unformed cognates. , like “cat”, despite strong theoretical assumptions for the possibility.”
The results of the project, titled “Determining the activation distance of propagation in the phonological network of people with aphasia to inform the selection of processing generalization probes”, will help researchers better understand how processing works and ultimately , to better select formed and unformed words to use. Processing.
Heffner’s research focuses on the ability of people with Parkinson’s to perceive and learn from small differences in the speed or volume of speech from other people. His study, entitled “Speech perception in Parkinson’s disease: intensity and frequency”, is an innovative work; Many studies have looked at how people with Parkinson’s produce speech, but the perception is fairly unknown.
“Parkinson’s disease is usually viewed in terms of its impact on movement and balance, but it actually affects a variety of different processes,” Heffner says. “Much of my training was focused on the study of young adults, but I gradually turned more and more to the study of populations with speech, language or hearing disorders. “
One way English speakers indicate important information to others during conversation is to make certain words more acoustically prominent by speaking them longer, louder, in higher, hyperarticulated tones. However, people with speech impairment associated with Parkinson’s disease often have difficulty modifying these aspects of speech, although they are often able to make words more prominent when explicitly asked to do so. .
The goal of Knowles’ study, “Prominence and Communicative Intent in Dysarthria,” is to identify how people with Parkinson’s disease convey prominent words in real-life communicative contexts in order to better characterize the functional impact speech symptoms of the disease.
“To date, studies have not explored how well people with Parkinson’s are able to use prominence in real-life communication demands; for example, when you give instructions or directions to someone,” says Knowles. “In my lab, Clinical Applications of Speech Acoustics, we study speech production in people with speech disorders secondary to neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, and how the symptoms of speech affect a person’s ability to be understood.”