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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. 
Examines questions of behavioral indices of attention, communication, and academic outcomes. Work also focuses on the short- and long-term impact of hearing technology interventions on communication in school or home settings by children with hearing loss and children with autism.

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.

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).

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

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

Child Language Intervention, Measurement, and Best Practices Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Jena McDaniel, Ph.D.

This lab is devoted to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of language intervention for children who are deaf and hard of hearing, children with autism, and children with other developmental disabilities.

Children’s Auditory Perception Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Angela Yarnell Bonino, Ph.D.

This lab investigates auditory development and hearing assessment for children who have developmental disabilities. Research focuses on identifying disparities in clinical assessment practices, understanding factors that affect behavioral testing performance, and designing strategies that can be incorporated into clinical practice to improve care.

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


Principal Investigator: Cara Donohue, Ph.D.

This lab aims to improve clinical care, patient outcomes, and quality of life for individuals suffering from swallowing disorders by 1) understanding the underlying mechanisms of swallowing impairments that occur secondary to respiratory and neurological diseases, to then 2) develop sensitive screening techniques, accurate assessment methods, and effective treatment approaches for individuals with impaired pulmonary, cough, and swallow function and to align them with the mechanisms of action of these diseases.

Lab website

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.


Principal Investigators: Gary P. Jacobson, Ph.D., Richard Roberts, Ph.D., and Daniel J. Romero, Ph.D.

This lab focuses on investigations of vestibular physiology across the lifespan and clinical applications of diagnostics and management of vestibular system disorders. The projects have focused on hypotheses that have been generated in the balance disorders and auditory clinics. Study areas have included: identification of optimal methods to record vestibular evoked potentials, age-related changes in balance, factors that affect falls risk, normal development of the vestibulo-ocular reflex, as well as long-term changes in vestibular function following traumatic brain injury.

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