Explore Our Research Groups and Labs
Pediatric Auditory Experience and Brain Laboratory
Dr. Benitez-Barrera’s research focuses on the impact of early auditory experiences on behavioral and neural outcomes of children, particularly those at risk of communication delays.
Dr. Gnanateja’s research investigates the neurophysiological processing of naturalistic speech with an eye towards developing ecologically valid objective tools to inform communication benefit from hearing rehabilitation strategies.
Dr. Jorgensen's research is motivated by the fact that many people with hearing loss do not seek out or find benefit from audiologic interventions. He aims to solve problems his patients commonly face in their daily lives.
Binaural Hearing and Speech Laboratory
Dr. Litovsky’s research studies binaural hearing in persons who have normal hearing and in persons who are deaf and use cochlear implants (CIs). Her team is interested in whether CI users can benefit from having two (bilateral) CIs.
Language, Literacy, and Learning Laboratory
Language Acquisition and Bilingualism Laboratory
Dr. Kaushanskaya’s research aims to improve diagnostic practices for children who speak English as a second language, and who therefore cannot be tested using tools developed for monolingual English-speaking children.
Cognitive-Communication in Aging and Neurogenic Disorders Laboratory
Dr. Mueller’s research focuses on neural mechanisms of speech/language in individuals with normal aging, preclinical Alzheimer’s disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), and other forms of dementia.
Research in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Laboratory
Dr. Sterling’s research focuses on the development of language and cognitive skills in children and adults with neurodevelopmental disabilities. She works with families who have children with fragile X syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, and DS.
Wisconsin Intelligibility, Speech, and Communication Laboratory
Dr. Hustad’s research studies the changes in speech language, cognition, and functional communication abilities among children with cerebral palsy (CP).
Speech Motor Action + Control Laboratory
Dr. Parrell’s research focuses on how the brain controls and produces the articulatory movements that create speech. This research incorporates speech behavior, neuroscience, and computational modelling to understand how speech motor control works.
Brain, Language, and Acoustic Behavior Laboratory
Dr. Niziolek is interested in how the brain coordinates auditory and motor signals to achieve communicative goals. Her research typically combines brain imaging during spoken language with the acoustic analysis of speech behavior.
Swallowing and Voice
Dr. Ciucci’s research focuses on the neurobiological and behavioral underpinnings of motor control for voice and swallowing. Using clinical and basic science models, she explores how degenerative neurologic diseases affect these functions.
Dr. Connor’s research focuses on the role of aging and treatments in reversing or preventing age-related changes in cranial muscles. Real-world benefit comes from knowledge of how current treatments may affect swallowing and voice disorder outcomes.
Swallowing and Salivary Bioscience Laboratory
Dr. Rogus-Pulia’s research works to systematically identify and characterize factors underlying dysphagia in patients with AD and to translate these findings into treatments for maintaining quality of life and prevention of pneumonia onset.
Thibeault Research Group
Dr. Thibeault’s translational research investigates molecular and genetic factors that are the basis of normal vocal fold tissue and its vibration. Dr. Thibeault studies vocal fold injury and wound healing as a disordered model.
Meet Our Research Faculty
Rebecca Alper, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Carlos Benítez-Barrera, Ph.D.
Dr. Benítez-Barrera’s research focuses on the impact of early auditory experiences on behavioral and neural outcomes of children, particularly those at risk of communication delays. Dr. Benítez-Barrera is also interested in investigating neural correlates of speech-in-noise processing in the pediatric population. His research takes place at the Waisman Center, where he directs the Pediatric Auditory Experience and Brain lab.
Michelle Ciucci, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Dr. Ciucci’s research interests include sensorimotor control for voice and swallowing, dysphagia (swallowing disorders), and Parkinson disease. Dr. Ciucci has a joint appointment in the Department of Surgery-Division of Otolaryngology and is a faculty member in the Neuroscience Training Program. She conducts basic, translational, and clinical science research for voice and swallowing disorders.
Haley Dresang, Ph.D.
Dr. Dresang investigates the neuroscience of language and neurological disorders that affect communication. Her research advances our understanding of the brain and how treatments can improve language following stroke, brain injury, and neurodegenerative conditions.
The mission of her lab is to improve the lives of individuals with communication difficulties by investigating questions like these:
- How does the brain perform cognitive and linguistic functions?
- How do brain systems change and adapt following neurological injury or dysfunction?
- How can we improve clinical assessments and treatments to facilitate recovery and improve performance?
Nike Gnanateja, Ph.D.
Dr. Gnanateja’s research investigates the neurophysiological processing of naturalistic speech with an eye towards developing ecologically valid objective tools to inform communication benefit from hearing rehabilitation strategies. His research uses a systems neuroscience approach employing multimodal neurophysiological approaches integrated with psychoacoustic tasks and naturalistic speech stimuli.
The goal of this lab is to develop neurophysiologically-informed, generalizable, and easy-to-use objective metrics of speech processing that can be seamlessly employed with hearing rehabilitative options such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, or auditory learning.
Katie Hustad, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Dr. Hustad’s research centers around children and adults with significant speech intelligibility problems associated with dysarthria. Her work has three main themes: 1) identification of variables that influence speech intelligibility, including factors related to the listener, the communicative context, and the speaker; 2) augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) interventions to enhance communication effectiveness for individuals with reduced speech intelligibility; and 3) longitudinal development of speech, language, and communication in young children with cerebral palsy. Most of her research takes place at the Waisman Center, where she works closely with several clinical programs including the Communication Aids and Systems Clinic.
Erik Jorgensen, Au.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Jorgensen’s programmatic line of research is motivated by the fact that many people with hearing loss do not seek out or find benefit from audiologic interventions. His research grows directly out of my experience as a clinician and aims to solve problems my patients commonly face in their daily lives. Ultimately, he aims to grow the number of listeners with hearing loss who utilize audiologic interventions and improve the benefit they experience when they do. Some of the big questions Dr. Jorgensen aims to answer are:
- What drives variance in hearing aid and other audiologic intervention outcomes?
- Why do so many people who are hearing aid candidates not use hearing aids or report little benefit from hearing aids and how can this be improved?
- Why are many hearing aid technologies that show efficacy in traditional laboratory experiments largely ineffective in the real world, especially in complex listening environments?
- How can signal processing be improved to provide more benefit in real-world complex listening environments?
- How can we improve hearing aid and other audiologic intervention outcomes in daily life for populations with complex communication needs and circumstances, such as adults with dementia and children with neurodevelopmental and other disabilities?
- How do the environments, listening activities, lifestyles, and demographics of hearing aid users affect intervention outcomes? How are intervention outcomes controlled by the interactions of these factors?
Dr. Jorgensen’s approach to these questions is rooted in the theory of auditory ecology—the interactions between the types of real-world soundscapes listeners encounter and their individual perceptual demands in those environments. His work begins from the idea that listening always occurs in a context with many interacting factors. These factors are typically not well-represented by traditional research in audiology and hearing science. To better understand the complex relationships between soundscapes, listeners, and interventions in the real world, He broadly employs two novel methods. In the first, he brings ecological validity to traditional psychoacoustic and hearing aid efficacy experiments. In the second, he studies listeners in the real-world environments as they go about their daily lives. Dr. Jorgensen’s commitment to ecological validity and focus on real-world applications of research findings primarily forms his identity as a researcher.
Margarita Kaushanskaya, Ph.D.
Dr. Kaushanskaya is a Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences Disorders of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She graduated with a BA in Linguistics and Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She then moved to the Midwest, and got both her M.A. in Speech-Language Pathology and her Ph.D. in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Northwestern University. Dr. Kaushanskaya leads and supervises research that goes on in the Language Acquisition and Bilingualism Lab.
Dr. Kaushanskaya’s research focuses on second-language acquisition and bilingualism in children and adults. She directs the Language Acquisition and Bilingualism Laboratory, housed in Goodnight Hall and the Waisman Center. The overall goal of her research program is to uncover the cognitive mechanisms that underlie language learning across the lifespan. The work in the Language Acquisition and Bilingualism lab examines the effects of bilingualism on learning and memory in children and adults; the interplay between linguistic and cognitive factors in shaping language proficiency of bilingual children and adults; and the nature and the developmental trajectory of language impairment in bilingual children.
Ruth Litovsky, Ph.D.
Dr. Litovsky’s research focuses on how people are able to hear in complex, noisy environments, and the contributions of the binaural auditory system (having two ears). The work has several main themes: 1) How we hear speech in noise (the “cocktail party” effect); 2) How we localize sounds; 3) How people with cochlear implants can operate in these conditions, and whether bilateral implants provide benefits beyond unilateral implants. Most of this research takes place at the Waisman Center, where she directs the Binaural Hearing and Speech Lab, working closely with children from the Waisman Center Early Childhood Progarm. She also collaborates with numerous clinics nation-wide that provide cochlear implants to children and adults.
Kimberly Mueller, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Dr. Mueller’s research focuses on understanding the neural mechanisms and behavioral aspects of speech and language changes across the spectrum of normal aging, preclinical Alzheimer’s disease, Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), Alzheimer’s disease (AD) dementia, and other forms of dementia. Her work utilizes naturalistic speech-language samples as one means of analyzing and understanding subtle changes to communication. Dr. Mueller is also interested in the design and testing of identification methods of early cognitive change in the presence of AD biomarkers, and multimodal therapeutic interventions to address cognitive-communication difficulties in MCI and dementia due to neurodegenerative disease.
Nicole Rogus-Pulia, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Audra Sterling, Ph.D.
My work focuses on the cognitive and language development of individuals with developmental disabilities. In particular I am interested in children with fragile X syndrome, autism, and Down syndrome. The long term goals of my research seek to understand the contributions of both biology (as represented by genetic syndromes, e.g., FXS) and environment (as represented in this case by parenting) in the development of language and cognition in children with developmental disabilities.
The current study in my lab focuses on the language development of boys with fragile X syndrome as well as boys with idiopathic autism. Fragile X syndrome is the most common inherited cause of intellectual disability and shares a striking number of similarities in terms of the language and behavioral phenotype with autism. Approximately 25-45% of males with fragile X also have a co-diagnosis of autism. The current study aims to describe the language profile of children with fragile X and children with autism, with a particular focus on syntax and morphology. I am also interested in the impact of autism on fragile X, and how this is similar and/or different to language in idiopathic autism. Additionally the study is also examining the best methods for assessing language in fragile X and autism. Very little is known about assessment and intervention for language development in fragile X, and the results of this study have important clinical implications in terms of designing and implementing the most effective treatments in this population.
I have several other projects focused on other areas of language and cognitive development in developmental disabilities, including the language and cognitive development of females with fragile X syndrome, adult language in idiopathic autism, and best assessment measures for autism in other clinical populations (i.e., fragile X).
Susan Thibeault, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Dr. Thibeault’s translational research investigates molecular and genetic factors that are the basis of normal vocal fold tissue and its vibration. Dr Thibeault studies vocal fold injury and wound healing as a disordered model. Specifically, Dr Thibeault’s lab has two main areas of study — tissue engineering of the vocal fold lamina propria and laryngeal immunology. The lab has developed unique primary and immortalized human cell lines, in addition to vibrational bioreactors to aid in the research pursuit.
Additional Resources & Information
This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.
Campus Life/Life in Madison
Madison Visitors Guide
Where to stay? What to eat? We’ve got your back. Destination Madison publishes an official Visitors Guide filled with ideas of things to do, upcoming events, restaurants and more.
Living in Madison
Madison, with a population of over 250,000, offers the amenities of a big city with the benefits and warmth of a strikingly beautiful college town. The Wisconsin Union Theater, the Overture Center for the Arts, the Kohl Center, and other facilities provide endless opportunities for students to enjoy national and local cultural events.
Campus Area Housing
Campus Area Housing, a service of the Campus and Visitor Relations office, is UW-Madison’s official resource for individuals searching for privately-owned housing rentals in the campus area, downtown, and greater Madison area. The listing service provides a searchable database where individuals may use a filtered search for rental housing specified to their individual needs.
With more than 45,000 students representing 50 states and 134 countries, our community is diverse, energetic, and constantly in motion. Jump around with 80,000 Badgers fans at Camp Randall Stadium and witness athletic feats from our 23 Big Ten varsity teams. Join one of the nearly 900 student organizations—or start a new one. Stroll down Madison’s vibrant State Street and experience the largest farmers’ market of its kind as you walk around Capitol Square. Relax over live music and a stunning sunset at the Memorial Union Terrace. Build a lifelong community of kinship and support.
Memorial Union Terrace
Grab a chair and soak up the sun on the historic Memorial Union Terrace. The years have passed, the space has grown and even the chairs have changed. But through it all, the Terrace has remained a favorite spot for UW students, faculty, staff, Union members and anyone else looking to enjoy sunny day or beautiful evening in the summer, spring or fall.
Madison: Home of the Badgers Video
International Student Services
International Student Services (ISS) serves UW-Madison students on F and J visas by providing holistic support through advising on immigration, personal, and cultural matters, and by organizing events and activities to support students’ engagement and development within the campus community.
Multicultural Student Center
The primary mission of the Multicultural Student Center is to collaboratively strengthen and sustain an inclusive campus where all students, particularly students of color and other historically underserved students, can realize an authentic Wisconsin Experience.
Black Cultural Center
Black Cultural Center (BCC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison serves Black students (including African-American, Caribbean, Afro-Latinx, and African Diaspora) by facilitating opportunities for academic and social support, co-curricular programming, and community building.
The BCC welcomes all students and centers the voices, experiences, and dynamic lives of Black undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. The Black Cultural Center exists to acknowledge the specific and particular realities of Black communities at UW-Madison, while also connecting communities to the larger Wisconsin Experience and fostering a sense of belonging.
Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Funding
The Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Funding is your resource for social networking, learning, and professional development. Housed within the Graduate School at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, we focus on the needs of underserved graduate student populations such as graduate students of color and first-generation graduate students.
Bouchet Graduate Honor Society
The Edward Alexander Bouchet Graduate Honor Society commemorates the first African American to earn a doctorate degree from an American university (Physics, Yale University, 1876). The Bouchet Society seeks to develop a network of scholars who exemplify academic and personal excellence, foster environments of support, and serve as examples of scholarship, leadership, character, service, and advocacy for students who have been traditionally underrepresented in the academy—exemplifying the spirit and example of Dr. Bouchet.
Gender and Sexuality Campus Center
The Gender and Sexuality Campus Center provides education, outreach, advocacy, and resources for UW-Madison student communities and their allies to improve campus climate and their daily intersectional experiences.
Veteran Services & Military Assistance Center
The Veteran Services & Military Assistance Center supports the Wisconsin Experience of military-connected students by fostering personal transitions and pursuit of academic success.
The University of Wisconsin–Madison is committed to creating an accessible and inclusive campus experience for all members of the campus community. The University has a rich history in providing access to individuals with disabilities and strives to continue this strong tradition through an established network of programs and resources that highlight disability, accessibility, and accommodations for students, employees, visitors, and guests.
McBurney Disability Resource Center
We view disability as an important aspect of the diversity of UW-Madison and are committed to creating an accessible and inclusive educational experience for students. We do this by partnering with students, faculty, and staff to design accessible environments and to provide academic accommodations so that students can engage, explore and participate in the Wisconsin Idea. Whether you are a student or instructor, are new to campus or are already quite familiar, have a long history of accommodations or are just exploring disability-related accommodations for the first time, we invite you to learn more about the Center and to contact us with any questions you may have.