The complexity of human communication disorders requires collaborative research between investigators utilizing a variety of skills and techniques. The proposal seeks funding to provide infrastructure support to researchers at Northwestern University who conduct research on the science and disorders of human communication. Through the establishment of three core facilities, this project will provide support to a group of investigators studying the processes involved in normal and disordered hearing, language processing, and speech production. Core 1 will hire personnel to recruit specific populations of hard-to-reach subjects such as children with autism, small children and older people and to administer routine and standardized screening tests. Core 2 will develop centralized and standardized tools for human subject management and data gathering, and will establish a research participant registry and relational database that will facilitate the secure storage and retrieval of data pertaining to subject groups and screening profiles. Finally, Core 3 will develop, deploy and customize techniques for analysis of fMRI and EEG that can be used by various labs to develop connectivity and graph theoretic models of neural mechanisms underlying normal and disordered communication. The net outcome from the work in the three cores will be an increase in collaborative research among investigators, the development of a database containing screening profiles and results of experimental studies of individuals with a variety of communication disorders, and the development of advanced mathematical tools for investigators using fMRI and EEG techniques for the analysis of neural mechanisms related to normal and disordered communication. The innovative outcome of this project will be the establishment of screening tests and experimental protocols that are most reliable for identifying markers of underlying etiologies of disorders of communication.
Communication disorders present severe handicaps to hundreds of thousands of people nationwide. Prevention and cures for these disorders will be accelerated by centralized recruiting of subjects, testing on a common set of screening tools and development of analytical tools for data analysis.