• Social Learning in Typically-Developing and Atypically-developing Children with Autism (Francys Subiaul, PhD)

The Subiaul Social Cognition Lab investigates social intelligence in human and non-human primates.  Our work focuses on a cornerstone of human intelligence: observational and imitation learning.  Some of the questions we are currently pursuing include: How and what do children and primates learn from others? What are the characteristics of good versus bad imitators? Do human and non-human primates differ in the types of rules or responses (spatial, motor, cognitive, vocal) develop in different stages? Through collaborations with the National Zoo and Children's National Medical Center as well as with scientists in Columbia University, McMaster University and the University of Southern Mississippi, we aim to address these questions in order to shed light on the development and evolution of the social mind. 


Cochlear Implants


Persons who stutter react similarly to virtual and real world environments. Unlike the real world, virtual reality environments allow for assessment and practice in environments that are safe, controllable, and repeatable. In collaboration with colleagues at the University of Sydney (Australia) we are using virtual reality environments to augment treatment for persons who stutter.

Bilingualism allows us to measure the relative contributions of linguistic variables to stuttering loci.

Gender and Voice

Acoustic measures of speech and voice are collected and analyzed using state of the art technology (computerized speech lab (CSL), pneumotachograph, electroglottography). The relationship between these acoustic measures and the perceptions of listeners also will be explored. These data will be used to develop evidence-based practice guidelines for communication feminization/masculinization assessments and treatments.

The validation of appropriate subjective and objective measures for determining vocal femininity will guide the development of more effective clinical practice for transgender voice treatment. Our data support the use of acoustic and perceptual targets and the TSEQ in vocal feminization treatment. Speakers and listeners rated voices as more feminine as pitch increased and semitone range decreased. Perturbation measures (indicative of voice quality) were not correlated with femininity ratings for this sample of healthy voices. Scores on the TSEQ strongly correlated with scores from the VHI and V-QOL and self-ratings of vocal femininity and likability. Test-retest reliability for the psychosocial measures was excellent (.85-.97). Portions of this research have been presented at the Voice Symposium (Philadelphia, USA) and World Professional Association for Transgender Health Conference (Oslo, Norway).

There is a lack of studies measuring gender language differences. Most research examines perceptual gender observations, rather than analyzing differences at the linguistic level. Additionally, due to changes in society, much of this information about gender differences may be no longer accurate. This study will collect and analyze conversational samples of American men and women to explore gender differences. By quantifying language characteristics and determining what differences truly exist, future studies can compare perceptions to reality and guide treatment aimed for "passing" as a certain gender (e.g., transgender communication treatment). There are multiple potential implications of this study. First, do we need to address language when training feminine communication? If so, which linguistic measures would be good goals? Also, do we need to control for language context in research/clinic addressing femininity? If no differences are found between men and women in this study, we will be less concerned about controlling for language context in clinical services and research for transgender communication. Holly Wilder is conducting this study for her Master's thesis, directed by Dr. Hancock.

Higher Education

A rubric for rating Responsibility for Learning, Critical Thinking, Cognitive Flexibility, Professionalism, and Communication, each with specific subcategories, was tediously created, developed, and implemented by faculty and clinical staff to guide the three sequential evaluations each Master's level student receives during the five-semester SLP program. After implementation of the GDSP, we tracked one cohort's average scores throughout the program; their overall scores and progression was congruent with our expected levels. The GSDP documents the student's professional competency demonstrated across academic, clinical, and interpersonal settings. It also brings convenience and efficiency to the often formidable, but fundamentally necessary, process of providing formative and summative feedback to students.


  • Correlates of Literacy Development in Kindergarten Children – (Cynthia Core, PhD & Elena Zaretsky)

Motor Speech Disorders

Linguistic measures (e.g., MLU, CIU, cohesion) were collected from language samples provided by individuals with Parkinson's disease before and after PVP or in four conditions of DBS settings. Data from 25 participants with PVP was reported at the Neurobiology of Language Conference in Chicago, October 2009. This research involves collaborations with Dr. Allen Braun from National Institute of Neurological Communication Disorders (NINCD) and Dr. Brooke-Mai Whelan of University of Queensland, Australia.


Traumatic Brain Injury

  • Cognitive-Linguistic Diagnostic Battery for Rancho VI - VIII Traumatic Brain Injury Patients - (Michael Bamdad, MA)
  • Attention and Language Performance in Patients with Right Hemisphere Brain Damage – (Adrienne Hancock, PhD & Shomstein)

Recent evidence suggests that some aspects of attentional selection may be subserved by two distinct anatomical sites within the parietal cortex: one to mediate top-down attentional orienting (superior parietal lobe; SPL) and the other to mediate bottom-up capture of attention (temporo-parietal junction; TPJ). Most reports of language impairment caused by right hemisphere damage are not specific to lesion are; patients with damage to the right hemisphere may have non-aphasic, or extralinguistic, communication impairments.  One aspect of this study will compare picture description and conversation abilities of individuals with damage in the SPL to those with damage to the TPJ and explore the relationship between attentional orientation and language.  This research is in collaboration with Dr. Sarah Shomstein of GWU's Psychology department.

In each of three environments, participants perform tasks of executive function, working memory, and reading comprehension and provide two language samples. Performance profiles will be compared across the conditions of quiet, somewhat distracting environment, and very distracting environment (i.e., food court). Recruitment is ongoing via collaboration with the Stroke Comeback Center Oakton, Virginia and the GWU Hospital. Persons with aphasia or traumatic brain injury (TBI) are eligible to participate. Initial findings were presented at the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association in November, 2007.

The purpose of this study is to examine the effectiveness of phrase-by-phrase script training in reinstituting islands of personally relevant, automatic speech. A single-subject multiple baseline design is used to analyze performance of three individuals with aphasia and apraxia resulting from stroke or traumatic brain injury. Dr. Hancock is collaborating with Drs. Youmans and Youmans at Long Island University. Results were reported at the 2007 American Speech, Language and Hearing Association Convention and are currently in review for publication.

Voice Training

Several questionnaires about speaking apprehension and confidence are administered at the beginning and end of my Voice and Diction classes. Comparisons have demonstrated significant improvement after the course. Data from a more traditional public speaking course taught by colleagues at Florida State University was also collected and preliminary analyses suggest equitable improvements in indirect (GWU) and direct (FSU) treatment approaches to apprehension of public speaking. Article is published in a 2009 issue of Journal of Voice.

Research Participation Opportunities

The Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences is always looking or individuals who would like to participate in ongoing research.  For more information about the various research occurring, please visit the Research Participation Opportunities page.

Professor Developing a Virtual Treatment for Stuttering

Associate Professor of Speech, Language and Hearing Science Shelley Brundage, a board recognized specialist in fluency disorders, works with her clients in the department's Speech, Language and Hearing Center, which provides a variety of speech, language and hearing services for individuals of all ages. Dr. Brundage and her research team are currently developing virtual reality environments for people who stutter.