Mentor Name:
Brennan Payne

Mentor Position:
Research Associate Professor


Social & Behavioral Science


Project Description:

**This project is a part of the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR), which provides undergraduate students with an intensive 10-week research experience under the mentorship of a University of Utah faculty member. SPUR 2022 begins on May 25 and ends on August 4. If you are interested in this project, please review all program information on the SPUR site. If you wish to apply to this project, you must apply using the SPUR 2022 application.**

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) affects nearly 50% of adults over the age of 60 and has a profoundly negative effect on speech comprehension, leading to increased social isolation, reduced quality of life, and increased risk for the development of dementia in older adulthood. This NIH-funded research project will use combined pupillometry and cognitive event-related brain potentials to characterize the effects of listening effort on comprehension and memory functioning in older adults with and without hearing loss. If successful, this project will lead to the identification of objective and reliable neural markers of comprehension and memory processes impaired by SNHL, leading to better future clinical assessment and the improved design of evidence-based interventions to improve speech comprehension and memory in aging.

Opportunity Type:

This is a paid research position

Student Role:

SPUR students who work in our lab will be involved in many aspects of the research process, including stimulus development, participant recruitment, data collection and analysis. Our lab uses a multimodal approach to studying language processes and has access to a wide range of research tools. For this project, the student will be assisting in collecting event-related brain potential data via EEG (electroencephalography) as well as collecting pupil dilation data via eye tracking cameras. In addition, the student will be conducting neuropsychological assessments looking at verbal fluency, vocabulary, and working memory capacity. They will also be administering hearing assessments, including pure tone audiometry and speech reception threshold tests. The student will be expected to present behavioral findings in lab meetings and at university level research conferences.

Student Benefits:

As this project requires data collection using multiple methodologies, SPUR students will be trained in and gain experience with all of these techniques. Students will gain skills in assisting in the use of TMS, setting up a participant with an EEG system, collecting high quality EEG data, and collecting and summarizing behavioral data. A SPUR student would also gain experience in administering several different neuropsychological and hearing assessments. The experience on this project would be ideal for undergraduates looking to apply for graduate programs in human factors, psycholinguistics, neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, and psychology. The SPUR student would also be expected to give a presentation in one of our lab meetings. This will be a good opportunity to get experience presenting scientific findings. This project is ideal for students wanting to go into neuropsychology, psychiatry, or cognitive neuroscience.

Project Duration:

35-40 hours per week on research and program-related activities, begins May 25, 2022, and ends August 4, 2022

Minimum Requirements:

Admission to the program is competitive. Applicants must meet all of the following criteria: 1) be a matriculated, degree-seeking undergraduate student in the Fall 2022 semester (beginning or continuing college career in Fall 2022 and not graduating before December 2022; concurrent enrollment while in high school does not meet this eligibility requirement). Applicants do not need to be a University of Utah student. 2) eligible to work in the United States: If you are a University of Utah Dreamer (with or without DACA), you are eligible to participate. U Dreamers with DACA will be hired and paid through U payroll. U Dreamers without DACA who graduated from a Utah high school will be compensated via a different mechanism. If you are a Dreamer from a different institution: If you have DACA, you are eligible to participate and will be hired and paid though U payroll. If you do not have DACA, you are able to participate and gain research experience, but we do not currently have a mechanism that allows us to compensate you. For more information, please contact Megan Shannahan at megan.shannahan@utah.edu or 801-581-2478. If you are an international student or scholar, you must either a) be a degree-seeking undergraduate student at the University of Utah, OR b) possess documentation that establishes your eligibility to work in the United States (if you hold US citizenship, it is likely you have these documents). 3) able to commit to approximately 35-40 hours per week of employment at the University of Utah for the entire duration of the program (May 25-August 4, 2022). 4) at least 18 years old by May 23, 2022 (required if you wish to use on-campus housing; preferred if you will not be using on-campus housing).