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Summer 2022

Project Background

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 and 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.


Brennan Payne

Assistant Professor
Social & Behavioral Science

Research in my lab is centered on understanding the nature of language and memory systems across the adult lifespan, how these systems are modulated by attentional control, and the functional organization of these systems in the human brain. We take an interdisciplinary approach to this work, merging theoretical models from the cognitive and neural sciences, gerontology, linguistics, and quantitative and experimental psychology, as well as adopting a multi-method approach including the non-invasive measurement of brain activity (e.g., event-related brain potentials), human performance (e.g., eye-movement control), and physiology (e.g., pupillometry).

Research topic interests in the lab range across a number of fields including: Cognitive and brain aging, sentence processing, semantic memory, working memory, cognitive electrophysiology, eye-movement control, intraindividual variability, cognitive interventions, prosodic segmentation, and advanced statistical modeling.

Opportunities For Students

Interested in joining the lab? Contact me for information about opportunities at the undergraduate level.

  1. Undergraduate: Research assistants, honors thesis students, and human factors certificate program.
  2. Graduate: NOT taking a new student this coming year
  3. Postdoctoral: NOT taking a new student this coming year.