Orange Alert

CSD’s Beth Prieve Receives a UNYTE Pilot Grant for Research on Detecting Language-based Disorders in Pre-Term Infants

Posted on: Aug. 9, 2021

Beth Prieve, Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and Director of Syracuse University’s Pediatric Audiology Laboratory, has been awarded a UNYTE pilot grant, along with her collaborator Ross Maddox, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Neuroscience at University of Rochester Medical Center. UNYTE is the University of Rochester’s translational Research Network that brings together universities across Central New York to elevate translational research quality and quantity.

Their project, “Novel hearing assessment method to predict communication challenges for pre-term infants,” aims to develop a technique to enhance prediction and detection of language-based disorders caused by auditory pathway disruption.

The auditory system is crucial for infants to learn spoken language, and previously published studies indicate there is a relationship between deficits in auditory neural processing (the ability for the brain to process auditory information) and language-based problems. Pre-term infants specifically have a higher chance of having language delay, learning disability, autism and hearing loss than infants born at full term.

Prieve and Maddox hypothesize that a novel method of recording auditory responses to natural, running speech may help to determine which infants could be at risk for developing language-based disorders and help diagnose language-based disorders.

The new method, invented by Maddox, records responses from the auditory system using running speech. Traditionally, responses from the auditory system could only be recorded using very short samples of speech, on the order of tens up to a couple of hundred millisecond like the syllable ‘da.’ The new method can record natural, running speech, allowing researchers to evaluate the way people actually talk and the way they normally listen to speech.

This grant is a first step to validate Maddox’s novel technique in preterm infants, which can eventually be used to determine those at risk of language-based disorders and allow for more timely and targeted therapy.