SPUR 2022: Understanding the effects of listening effort on sentence processing and memory in sensorineural hearing loss: Evidence from simultaneous electrophysiology and pupillometry


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.

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 Learning Outcomes & 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.

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Brennan Payne
Research Associate Professor

College of Social & Behavioral Science
Neuroscience Program

I play an active role in mentoring students. I hold weekly individual meetings with my SPUR students over the full summer session to discuss project progress and work on training and development goals. In addition, students attend weekly lab meetings, and gain experience working directly with fellow graduate students and research staff. Our lab environment is collegial and open, and students are encouraged to work in the lab in our shared workspace, allowing them the opportunity to directly interact with the other researchers throughout the course of the program.