The long-term career goal is to develop a clinical model of voice therapy founded on basic science principles in two domains: voice physiology and skill acquisition. The candidate's past research experience has largely involved work in voice physiology, with minimal research experience in skill acquisition. The goal of the Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Award is to expand prior academic background in cognitive science in skill acquisition, to a cognitive neuroscience approach to skill acquisition for a voice therapy task. The identified mentoring environment is ideal to provide support for this endeavor by including a highly experienced sponsor in cognitive science and recently, cognitive neuroscience, as well as a group of active cognitive neuroscientist researchers who work within the theoretical framework proposed for the present studies. Interactions with this group will be supplemented by formal course work in cognitive neuroscience, neuroscience, and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) technology. Regarding the research proposal itself, the general objectives are: (1) to obtain information about the cognitive and functional neurophysiological substrates of skill acquisition for a voice therapy task, and (2) to obtain data regarding the clinical utility of this information, for patients with laryngeal nodules. The theoretical framework will involve a distinction between memories with and without awareness, with the latter argued to fundamentally govern skill acquisition. The specific focus is a distinction between performance benefits for specific, previously practiced items (item-specific learning) versus performance benefits for new items following practice on other stimuli of a similar type (generalized learning). It is anticipated that item-specific and generalized learning will be cognitively and neurally dissociated, and manipulated with different training maneuvers. It is further anticipated that, contrary to common clinical expectations, item-specific and generalized learning will both contribute to the outcome of voice therapy for nodules.
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