Learning Lab
M.S. Communication Sciences & Disorders

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+ - NeuroCognitive-Communication Lab

Over 2 million individuals sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the US annually. The increase in public awareness of sports-related and war-related TBI has brought this epidemic to the forefront. Most of these are concussions, yet many individuals experience life-changing cognitive, communication, and psycho-social consequences that affect their ability to return to school, go to work, resume their family roles, and participate fully in their community.

Despite this increase in public awareness, there remains much to learn about how TBI impacts ones life. In the NCCL we investigate the cognitive and communication disorders that result from brain injury using quantitative and qualitative methods. It is widely accepted that memory, attention and executive functions disorders are the result of TBI, including concussion. How these cognitive disorders impact everyday life and how speech-language pathologists can best evaluate and treat these cognitive impairments is the focus of the NCCL. Based on the World Health Organization’s International Classification Framework, Dr. Kennedy and graduate students are researching three areas that impact the ability to return to home, work and college:

  1. The validation of the use of interviews and surveys as assessment procedures that document everyday cognitive and communication disorders associated with brain injury, including those with post-concussion syndrome;
  2. The investigation of the effectiveness of dynamic coaching, developed by Dr. Kennedy, as an approach for improving outcomes of returning to school and returning to work after injury;
  3. The translation of research evidence into best clinical practices for assessing and treating individuals with brain injury.

Dr. Mary R.T. Kennedy
Location: Harry and Diane Rinker Health Science Campus

+ - Early Language and Cognitive Development Lab

Mary K. Fagan is an assistant professor in Communication Sciences and Disorders. She received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the University of Missouri and was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University, School of Medicine. She has a master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology. Dr. Fagan’s research centers broadly on infant development and investigates patterns and predictors in speech and language development, mother-infant interactions, and early exploration. In addition, she is interested in cognitive and pre-linguistic development in infants with hearing loss and in identifying interventions that promote word learning and vocabulary development in infants with profound hearing loss before and after they receive cochlear implants.

Dr. Mary Fagan
Location: Harry and Diane Rinker Health Science Campus

+ - Laboratory for Communication Diversity Across the Lifespan

Mission Statement

Our laboratory seeks to use innovative AAC and other Assistive Technologies to collaboratively answer research questions with clinical application for Individuals with developmental disabilities such as autism and intellectual disability and acquired disabilities such as Parkinson’s Disease across the lifespan who are diverse in their communication abilities.

Our mission is to improve competency in communication, and to aid these individuals to lead valued lives with equal access and social justice.

Research Themes

  1. Collaboration and Inclusion of Underrepresented Populations
  2. Use of Current AAC and other Assistive Technologies
  3. Knowledge Sharing Through Innovation

Research Priorities and Methodologies

  • Ensuring access to communication technology (e.g. AAC) for adults

with developmental and acquired disabilities using innovative curriculum development and training models

  • Conducting hearing screenings with clinical populations to detect undiagnosed and untreated hearing loss especially in geriatric populations
  • Analyzing social pragmatic and word learning skills in children and adolescents with autism, specific language impairment, and learning disability through eye gaze technology as well as cognitive and language testing

Dr. Deanna Hughes
Location: Harry and Diane Rinker Health Science Campus

+ - Cognitive Rehabilitation And Neurolinguistics In Aphasia Lab (CRANIAL)

At the Cognitive Rehabilitation And Neurolinguistics In Aphasia Lab (CRANIAL) we aim to gain an understanding of the underlying language and cognitive deficits resulting from stroke and neurodegenerative diseases. We also conduct clinical treatment research to determine how to best enhance recovery processes. Almost 800,000 people suffer from strokes every year in the United States, and strokes will frequently lead to short- and long-term deficits. Furthermore, currently 4-5 million people are living with dementia in the United States. Yet, we do not have a good understanding of which neurological and treatment factors best drive recovery in patients who have had strokes, or the factors that help decelerate the progression of language loss in patients with dementia. 

At CRANIAL, under the guidance of Dr. Sheppard, a team of scientists and clinicians including Chapman graduate students and external collaborators apply cutting edge neuroimaging and behavioral methods to better understand the mechanisms that lead to language deficits in stroke and neurodegenerative diseases. We study the fundamental cognitive and linguistic processes that characterize the deficit in patients with stroke-based aphasia. We also research communication deficits associated with right hemisphere stroke, with an emphasis on understanding difficulties expressing and understanding emotion in speech (emotional prosody – changes in pitch, rhythm, rate, and loudness that indicates emotion).

CRANIAL is also developing treatments that use neurostimulation techniques like transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to enhance traditional language therapy in people with stroke-based aphasia and Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA). PPA is a neurological syndrome caused by neurological diseases like frontotemporal lobar degeneration and Alzheimer’s disease. There are very few evidence-based programs designed to treat language loss in PPA. We are conducting clinical trials to determine whether brain stimulation paired with language therapy will help slow the loss of language in patients with PPA.

Dr. Shannon M. Sheppard
Location: Harry and Diane Rinker Health Science Campus