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Research Lab

Welcome to the research section of the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences!

PhD Students may study in one or more of the research lab within the Department. The research efforts of these labs are funded by diverse sources of funding, including the National Institutes of Health, the United States Department of Education, and the Institute of Education Sciences.

Below is a list of the different labs available for research

Anechoic Chamber

The chamber is a shared department resource and focuses on how normal hearing and hearing-impaired individuals perform in tasks involving sounds (speech and other auditory signals) coming from different positions in space. Example areas include sound localization, auditory motion perception, and informational masking.

Auditory Development Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Anne Marie Tharpe, Ph.D. 
This lab merges Dr. Tharpe’s expertise in pediatric audiology with Dr. Ashmead’s background in developmental psychology, resulting in a multidisciplinary emphasis on the impact of hearing loss on infants and young children.

Lab Website

Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Troy Hackett, Ph.D.

This laboratory combines anatomical, neurophysiological, and genomic techniques to characterize structural and functional changes in the brain associated with development, hearing loss, aging, and other neuropathology.

Auditory Physiology Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Linda J. Hood, Ph.D.

Focuses on the physiology of the auditory system at cochlear, subcortical, and cortical levels. Research areas include auditory studies in infants, auditory efferent reflexes, development of sensitive auditory physiologic assays, patients with auditory neuropathy/dyssynchrony, and hearing losses related to genetic mutations.

Auditory and Vestibular Electrophysiology Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Gary P. Jacobson, Ph.D.

Focuses on hypotheses that have been generated in the balance disorders and auditory clinics. Study areas include age-related changes in balance, factors that affect fall risk, normal development of the vestibulo-ocular reflex.

Balance Disorders Laboratory

Co-Principal Investigators: Gary Jacobson, Ph.D. and Richard Roberts, PhD

The Balance Disorders Laboratory is a diagnostic clinic where specially-trained audiologists conduct tests, the results of which help physicians determine the cause of dizziness, disequilibrium, and vertigo. Together with physical therapists at the Pi Beta Phi Rehabilitation Institute, the Balance Disorders Lab also conducts assessments of patients who may be at risk for falling.

Lab website

Biobehavioral Approaches in Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Principal Investigator: Tiffany Woynarski, Ph.D.

Seeks to identify brain and behavioral factors that (a) explain individual differences, (b) predict differential response to treatment, and (c) explain how or why the treatment works in children with neurodevelopmental disorders.

Lab website

Autism Brain, Behavior & Intervention Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Jim Bodfish, Ph.D.

The lab conducts and disseminates research studies designed to examine how behavioral and neural function may be linked in people with autism and related conditions and, in turn, how this information can be applied to help guide the development and evaluation of novel forms of intervention. One focus of the work is on subgroups that tend to respond poorly to existing interventions (e.g. minimally verbal, challenging behavior, comorbid psychiatric or medical conditions).

Child Language and Literacy Laboratory

Principal Investigator: C. Melanie Schuele, Ph.D.

This lab is devoted to the study of typical and atypical language and literacy acquisition and the study of the effectiveness of language-literacy interventions. Specific areas of focus include complex syntax acquisition, early reading development, language, and literacy assessment, and phonological awareness.

Lab website

Clinical Language Intervention Program

Principal Investigator: Stephen Camarata, Ph.D.

Dr. Camarata’s lab is devoted to the development and validation of speech and language interventions for children with primary language impairment, children with Down syndrome, and children with autism.

Cochlear Implant Research Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Rene Gifford, Ph.D.

Co-Investigator: Jourdan Holder, AuD, PhD

Drs. Gifford & Holder’s research focuses on understanding and improving speech perception and basic auditory function for adult and pediatric cochlear implant recipients. More specifically, Dr. Gifford is interested in the study of auditory perception, spatial hearing, and binaural development for children and adults using combined electric and acoustic stimulation (EAS).

Lab website

Communication and Memory Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Melissa Duff, Ph.D.

This lab is devoted to understanding the cognitive and neural bases of language and communication, with a particular focus on the role of memory and the hippocampus, as well as the recovery and long-term outcomes of acquired brain injury.

Lab website

Dan Maddox Hearing Aid Research Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Todd Ricketts, Ph.D.

The Hearing Aid Research Lab is devoted to the evaluation and refinement of existing amplification and cochlear implant technology; examination of the total listening experience in those with normal and impaired thresholds and how signal processing interacts with this experience; the development and refinement of individualized fitting and counseling techniques; and the evaluation and design of signal processing schemes for hearing aids and cochlear implants.

Developmental Stuttering Laboratory

Principal investigator: Robin Jones, Ph.D.

Dr. Jones investigates stuttering in young children focusing on the linguistic, cognitive, and emotional contributions to childhood stuttering. These contributions are assessed by acoustic, behavioral, standardized tests, and psycho-physiological means.

Hearing and Affect Perception Interest Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Erin M. Picou, Ph.D.

This laboratory is devoted to understanding the effects of hearing loss and hearing aid processing on listening effort and emotion perception.

Hearing and Communication Research Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Benjamin Hornsby, Ph.D.

Dr. Hornsby lab’s focuses on speech understanding difficulties in adults and children with hearing loss, factors responsible for those difficulties, and their relationship to the psychosocial consequences and benefit from rehabilitation

Lab website

Language Neuroscience Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Stephen M. Wilson, Ph.D.

Research in the lab is focused on three related questions:

  1. How is language processed in the brain?
  2. How does brain damage affect language processing in individuals with aphasia, i.e. acquired language disorders?
  3. What brain mechanisms support the recovery of language processing in people with aphasia who improve over time?

To address these questions, we study individuals with aphasia, as well as healthy participants with normal language, using a range of state-of-the-art functional and structural neuroimaging techniques. We combine our multimodal imaging approach with comprehensive language assessments designed to quantify deficits in different components of the language processing system, such as syntactic structure, word meanings, and the selection and assembly of speech sounds.

Lab website










Listening and Learning Laboratory


The lab was started with Dr. Fred Bess and is devoted to understanding the role of hearing loss in children’s learning outcomes. Current studies underway include the psychoeducational impact of mild and unilateral hearing loss on young children and fatigue and listening effort in school-age children with mild to moderate hearing loss. For more information, please contact Dr. Ben Hornsby

Lab website

Multisensory Research Laboratories

Principal Investigator: Mark Wallace, Ph.D.

Dr. Wallace examines the processes by which other sensory systems (e.g, vision, touch) can influence auditory behaviors and perceptions, as well as the neural mechanisms that underlie these interactions.

Neural Basis of Auditory Perception Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Ramnarayan Ramachandran, Ph.D.

The lab investigates the perception of sound and its underlying neuronal encoding in normal hearing animals and animals with hearing impairments. Auditory perceptions are assessed in realistic environments where there are both relevant sounds and distractors.

Lab website

Neurogenic Communication Disorders Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Michael de Riesthal, Ph.D. 

Our research focuses on the interaction of speech, language, and cognitive-communication disorders that result from neurological injury and disease. Our lab is integrated into the interdisciplinary traumatic brain injury clinic, Huntington’s disease clinic, frontotemporal dementia clinic, and Pi Beta Phi Rehabilitation Institute at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. These collaborative relationships with our colleagues in trauma surgery and neurology allow us to generate clinically relevant questions that may be addressed in a clinical setting.

Psychophysiology Research Laboratory

Principal investigator: Alexandra (Sasha) Key, Ph.D.

Focuses on EEG/ERP studies of speech/language processing and cognitive functioning in infants, children, and adults.

Lab website

Speech Kinematics and Acoustics Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Antje Mefferd, Ph.D.

The Lab investigates speech motor control and execution. Research efforts are predominantly directed towards the identification of the articulatory mechanisms that underlie speech clarity/intelligibility changes in healthy speakers and speakers with dysarthria.

Voice Biology Lab

Principal Investigator: Emily Kimball, Ph.D.

The Voice Biology Lab focuses on the biological and physiological basis for vocal fold health and pathology. We are particularly interested in understanding the specific cellular and molecular mechanisms by which the vocal folds maintain their ability to vibrate freely. Along with this goal, we also seek to understand the circumstances that ultimately lead to the development of vocal fold lesions like nodules and polyps, which cause disordered voice production.

Lab website