The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders is committed to offering a strong research program for faculty and for students at all levels. Our research focus is addressed toward solving clinical problems and advancing knowledge in the human communication sciences and disorders.
More specifically, our current research programs involve work in adult language disorders and cognition, pediatric communication disorders, speech perception and genetics. Our laboratories are state-of-the-art and collaborative research opportunities exist with a number of other institutions.
- Aphasia and Neurocognitive Disorders Lab
The Aphasia and Neurocognitive Disorders Laboratory is active and devoted to the study of acquired communication deficits in adults. This lab features many of today's advanced clinical and research resources for impaired language assessment and treatment, and for neuroimaging of brain activation during language function. Lab staff work in collaboration with staff from a number of area medical facilities, including the Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Hospital, and the Detroit V.A.
Opportunities to participate in this lab's research protocols are available to our graduate students and members of the community who have experienced communication difficulties as a result of stroke, brain tumor, or head injury.
- Behavior, Speech & Genetics Lab
The Behavior, Speech & Genetics Lab research suite is located on Level 3 (Rm 300.11) of Prentis Building in downtown Detroit. It was designed for both behavioral research in the areas of Stuttering and Autism and genetic research across all speech and hearing disorders.
To date, the lab is set up to facilitate:
- DNA extraction
- Computational genetic analysis
- Delayed auditory feedback/ altered auditory feedback
- Acoustic analysis
- Behavioral studies
- Speech/language analysis
- Temperament/severity studies in communication disorders
Currently, the wet lab is equipped for DNA extraction and houses state of the art technology for molecular work. Computational genetic work is completed at three newly designed workstations.
There are three rooms in the behavioral speech portion of the lab dedicated to subject/parent interviews, testing, observation, and speech/language capture.
The conference area of the lab is a multipurpose area specifically designed to transition from an observational open space for behavioral-play and speech/language observation to a large meeting space with tables and chairs. This space is ideal for of children with Autism or who stutter to interact with their families in parent-child interaction/behavioral studies, and clinician-child Interaction/behavioral studies.
Interviews with research participants and, in some cases, parents of young participants are conducted in the office suite of the lab. Standardized testing, questionnaires, and case history reports are administered and generated in this space. An open room, with windows, a large L-shaped desk, and comfortable chairs encourage research participants to feel comfortable and relaxed.
A sound suite designed for speech and language acoustic capture has a brand new Gordman Stowe 11'x9' Sound-Proof Booth, with a one-way window, and sound ports connecting to a tripod-mounted video camera, and table and shirt microphones. Outside of the booth, a workstation in the acoustic suite houses a media tower for visual and acoustic media capture and analysis.
The Behavior, Speech & Genetics Lab is connected to the CSD teaching lab. This is a fantastic space designed for clinical teaching, and technology and equipment training for students.
- Speech-Language NeuroScience Lab
The Speech-Language NeuroScience Laboratory is a research facility with an interest in studying neural substrates of speech and language processing. It is equipped with state-of-the-art computers, software for neuroimaging data analysis, stimulus presentation, acoustic analysis of speech, and statistical analysis. The laboratory is also equipped for audio recording. We conduct behavioral testing in the lab and in the neuroimaging center at Harper Hospital.
- Stuttering Research Lab
The Stuttering Research Lab is devoted to investigating the quality of life for people who stutter. In particular, projects of this lab have focused on the following areas:
- Psychosocial components of stuttering (i.e., attitudes and emotions of the speaker)
- Understanding the speaker's experience of stuttering
- Public perceptions of stuttering
- Parental experiences of having children who stutter
- The impact of stuttering on identity construction
- Multidimensional treatment approaches to stuttering
- Tinnitus and Auditory Neuroscience Research Lab
Dr. Zhang's lab mainly focuses on the development of prostheses in treating tinnitus and in improving hearing. In tinnitus research, his group is interested in the suppression of tinnitus and tinnitus-related neural activity through electrical stimulation. Electrical stimulation has been used to suppress the percepts or reduce the loudness of tinnitus in patients when it is applied to certain structures including the somatosensory structures, cochlea, and auditory brain structures. Due to a lack of understanding of the mechanisms underlying tinnitus and suppression of tinnitus, electrical stimulation has not been well established as a reliable therapy for treating tinnitus.
In animal research, his technical approaches combine surgical implantation, electrical stimulation, behavioral testing, electrophysiology at single- and multi-unit levels, and mapping of neural or neurotransmitter pathways. He is currently developing an animal model of Auditory Cortical Electrical Stimulation (ACES) to suppress tinnitus. The immediate goal of this research is to identify brain areas and neural pathways for stimulation and optimize the stimulation strategies in order to effectively suppress tinnitus and its neural correlates. He is collaborating with clinicians at the Henry Ford Hospital. The eventual goal is to translate the findings in the animal model to applications in patients through the development of tinnitus prosthesis.
In addition, Dr. Zhang is collaborating with engineer colleagues to develop advanced neural implants to be used in central auditory prosthesis. The central auditory prosthesis currently includes both the auditory brainstem implants (ABI) and auditory midbrain implants (AMI). These implants have been developed to recover hearing for patients who cannot benefit from cochlear implantation. The problems of causing patients ineligible for cochlear implantation include Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF-2), cochlear ossification, aplasia and avulsion. Although the currently available central auditory prosthesis systems have demonstrated the benefits of hearing recovery, there is quite a large variability in speech performance.
The low speech performance has been attributed to multiple factors including neural damage from surgery to the physiological processing pathway specialized for modulation and speech, channel interactions, the low resolution of stimulation, or inadequate target for stimulation. Dr. Zhang and Dr. Gregory Auner's group are developing advanced neural implants to minimize trauma from insertion and reduce interactions among stimulation electrodes/channels in order to more effectively access and stimulate the tonotopic gradients in a brain structure.