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Communication Sciences and Disorders
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Research Labs and Facilties

Aphasia Rehabilitation and Bilingualism Research Lab

Background, Mission and Research: Aphasia is an acquired language disorder most often caused by stroke (as well as traumatic brain injury, dementia, and more). Aphasia results in impairments in the production and comprehension of language that can significantly compromise a person’s ability to communicate in all facets of life. At the heart of the lab’s mission is clinical research focused on the development and systematic evaluation of novel treatments for aphasia that aim to improve effective communication in persons with aphasia.

Our current and ongoing treatment research involves projects that target 1) improved word retrieval in spoken production of sentences and discourse (Verb Network Strengthening Treatment (VNeST)), 2) improved written discourse (Attentive Reading and Constrained Summarization-Writing (ARCS-W) and Compterized VNeST (VNeST-C)), and 3) improved word retrieval in Spanish-English bilinguals with a focus on the effect of treatment in one language on the other, untrained, language. We are also evaluating the effectiveness of some of these treatments provided through telerehabilitation (where the participants are at home, and the clinicians are in the clinic), since there is a pressing need to provide access to treatment to people who cannot regularly get to a therapist. The other aspect of clinical research conducted in the lab is the development of assessment materials for persons with Spanish-English bilingual aphasia, as there is a shortage of materials to assess the effects of aphasia in this population. Finally, we conduct more basic research that informs our understanding of normal cognitive and linguistic functions with a focus on semantic processing of verbs and thematic roles and discourse production. This research also informs the development of our assessment and treatment protocols.

Bilingual Extension Institute

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The Bilingual Extension Institute at Teachers College Columbia University provides clinicians with the knowledge and skills to make these differential diagnoses and provide appropriate services. The bilingual extension certificate requirement of the State Education Department recognizes the need for special training. Any clinician who works with bilingual children and adolescents (ages 3-21) for IEP based-services must obtain this add-on to their Teacher of Students with Speech and Language Disabilities certificate. The Bilingual Extension Institute at Teachers College Columbia University fulfills all requirements of the bilingual extension, except for the NYSED BEA, the language proficiency test.

Edward D. Mysak Clinic for Communication Disorders

Laboratory for the Study of Upper Airway Dysfunction

The Laboratory for the study of Upper Airway Dysfunction (UAD) is committed to improving clinical outcomes and quality of life in patients with dysphagia and dystussia through research, clinical care, and education.

The UAD engages in research aimed at improving health outcomes and quality of life associated with disorders of airway protection. To that end, we employ a two-pronged approach including both basic science and clinical research.  Basic science research goals focus on developing a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying airway protection and its disorders.  Clinical research goals are the development of novel and robust evaluation and treatment techniques for dystussia and dysphagia.  Our current projects focus on multiple behaviors contributing to airway protection and the ability to modify those behaviors via non-pharmacological treatment paradigms.  Research participants include healthy volunteers, people with Parkinson’s disease, other movement disorders, and ischemic stroke.

The UAD is committed to the timely dissemination of research outcomes and the training of new speech-language clinicians.  Our educational mission is accomplished through MA SLP-level courses, clinical education of students and healthcare professionals, and education of patients and caregivers through support groups and small forums.

Speech Production & Perception Lab

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Research

Research in the Speech Production and Perception Laboratory examines speech performance in children and adults in English, French, Mandarin, and Spanish, with special emphasis on the motor speech disorder of dysarthria. Under the direction of Erika S. Levy, Ph.D., Associate Professor and trilingual speech-language pathologist, this lab is affiliated with the Program in Communication Sciences and Disorders in the Department of Biobehavioral Sciences at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Goals

The goals of our research are to better understand patterns of speech production and perception in individuals with various language backgrounds and to develop remediation strategies, when needed, for increasing their intelligibility.

We aim to recreate natural speech patterns as much as possible within the laboratory setting. A theme of this research has been the investigation of utterances in continuous speech, in which neighboring vowels and consonants affect each other’s pronunciation, as opposed to examining speech sounds in isolation. Our work informs educational and therapeutic approaches to speech learning and disorders in multilingual populations.

Current Projects

1. Effects of Speech Systems Intelligibility Treatment (SSIT) (Levy, 2014) on intelligibility in children with spastic dysarthria due to cerebral palsy. We perform intensive, state-of-the-art speech treatment in a fun, camp-like environment for 3 weeks over the summer as part of a randomized controlled trial. (See flyer above.)

2. Effects of speech treatment (ARTIC Treatment and Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT) LOUD [Ramig et al., 2001]) on intelligibility in American-English speaking adults with hypokinetic dysarthria due to Parkinson’s disease.

3. Effects of LSVT-LOUD (Ramig et al., 2001) on speech intelligibility and speech function in Mandarin-speaking adults with hypokinetic dysarthria due to Parkinson’s disease.

4. Effects of two intensive interventions, Respiratory and LSVT-LOUD (Ramig et al., 2001), on the acoustics and intelligibility of Spanish hypokinetic dysarthria due to Parkinson’s disease.

5. Examination of patterns with which early and late Spanish-English bilingual adults assimilate American English vowels into their native vowel inventory and the accuracy with which they discriminate and identify the vowels.