UTSA scientists explore stuttering and develop new technology to optimize brain function

A team of researchers at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) received a two-year, $387,000 grant, from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to develop technology that will identify brain activity patterns that contribute to stuttering and use that technology to train people how to optimize brain functions.

Edward Golob, a psychology professor and principal investigator of the grant, is teaming up with Kay Robbins, a professor in the UTSA Department of Computer Science, Jeffrey Mock, an assistant professor of research at UTSA, and Farzan Irani, an assistant professor of communication disorders at Texas State University, to study persistent developmental stuttering (PDS).

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, stuttering affects roughly three million Americans of all ages.

With this grant, the research team of professors and their doctoral and undergraduate students, will create brain-computer interface (BCI) technology with the goal to reduce how often participants stutter.

The study's participants will have sensors on their heads that are connected to a computer system. The sensors will read what the brain is doing in real-time and will be used to identify brain activity patterns associated with successful and stuttered speech in each person.

After identifying brain states associated with a participant's best performance, researchers train the brain to get into that state more often, with the hopes that their stuttering rate will be reduced.

"We are studying how to get the most out of the brain that you have," said Golob, whose research expertise includes cognitive neuroscience with a focus on perception, attention and memory in the auditory system. "This general approach could be developed into a powerful tool for rehabilitation and therapy for neurological and psychiatric disorders including stroke, Alzheimer's disease and traumatic brain injuries."

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