CONTACT: JENNIFER BROWN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-9917; fax(319) 335-8034
Release: Aug. 14, 2000
UI researchers receive $2.1 million grant to investigate how the brain
processes speech sounds
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Researchers at the University of Iowa have received a
five-year, $2.1 million research grant from the National Institutes of Health
(NIH) to determine how information from speech sounds is represented by electrical
activity within the human brain.
"Humans have a remarkable capacity to understand spoken language. However,
scientists are uncertain how our brains evolved to give us this unique capability,"
said Matthew Howard, M.D., UI associate professor of surgery and principle
investigator on the study. "We want to understand how our brain extracts
information from sound, and how diseases disrupt these functions."
The research program aims to address these questions by recording electrical
activity in the brains of conscious patients undergoing surgery to treat epilepsy.
UI researchers have developed unique experimental methods that will reveal
which brain regions are engaged in detecting and characterizing speech sounds
and how patterns of brain electrical activation are modified to encode speech
The collaborative project will involve scientists and clinicians from several
UI departments, as well as investigators from the University of Wisconsin
and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
From within the UI College of Medicine, Howard's collaborators include Hanna
Damasio, M.D., UI Foundation Distinguished Professor of Neurology; Mark Granner,
M.D., associate professor (clinical) of neurology; Ralph Adolphs, Ph.D., assistant
professor of neurology; Bruce Gantz, M.D., Brian F. McCabe Professor of Otolaryngology-Head
and Neck Surgery and head of the department; Paul Abbas, Ph.D., professor
of speech pathology and audiology; and Christopher Turner, Ph.D., professor
of speech pathology and audiology. Winston Chan, Ph.D., associate professor
of electrical and computer engineering will also participate in this research
"This program's unique capabilities have evolved from collaborative
interdisciplinary work and the University of Iowa's long standing strengths
in speech, hearing and human brain neuroscience research," Howard said.
The program was initiated six years ago with seed grant funding from the
UI Division of Neurosurgery, the UI College of Medicine, the Margaret W. and
Herbert Hoover, Jr. Foundation, and the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, and
a training grant from the NIH. Funding from the new grant will provide salary
support and augment existing funds for research equipment acquisition.
University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the
UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care,
medical education and research programs and services they provide.