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New $11 Million Grant Awarded

Boys Town National Research Hospital Receives $11 Million Grant to Study Communication and Perception in Children

Boys Town National Research Hospital has been awarded an $11 million grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The five-year Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant is set to expand the range of existing, highly successful research programs at the Boys Town National Research Hospital and tackle more complex issues that directly address the problems encountered by children with hearing loss.

Core research programs covered by the grant will investigate issues related to:

  • Speech understanding for young listeners with cochlear implants
  • Diagnosis and outcomes for children with otitis media, an inflammatory condition of the middle ear
  • Strategies used by children to overcome working memory limitations

Related projects that will receive funding cover multiple labs and include, examining the impact of hearing loss in real-world environments like classrooms, the contributions of bottom-up and top-down processing in children learning English as a second language, how visual and auditory information work together in speech and language learning, and the consequences for visual processing of vestibular deficits associated with hearing loss.

Lori Leibold, Ph.D., is the primary investigator on the grant and Director of the Center for Hearing Research. Dr. Leibold notes that, "Our goal is to become the national leader for research on speech, language, hearing, and cognitive development in children with communication disorders. We believe we are close to achieving this goal, in large part due to this NIH award that has allowed us to grow our research program and provide the resources these young investigators need to be successful."

This is the second round of COBRE grant funding for Boys Town Hospital. The first $11.3 million grant was awarded in 2014 and has contributed to Boys Town Hospital recruiting several world-class senior scientists, hosting more than 60 experts from around the country for research talks, sparking many new collaborations. The 2014 grant also established a state-of-the-art Auditory-Visual Core facility that supports research using techniques such as augmented and virtual reality.

"Scientists and other professionals supported by this grant are the next generation in the 40-year legacy of Boys Town Research," states Director of Research, Ryan McCreery, Ph.D., who also notes that "this additional five years of support from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) is recognition for the high-impact translational research that our scientists do every day. Their research has the potential to improve the lives of people with hearing and communication problems."

The new COBRE grant award will have lasting impacts on research in Nebraska and the surrounding region by providing mentoring and resources for the young investigators needed to sustain a thriving research community. The grant also includes a strategic sustainability and development plan for core facilities that expand the technical capabilities of individual labs at Boys Town National Research Hospital and collaborating institutions. The benefits of this grant will be far reaching for Boys Town and for Nebraska, supporting our scientific community and high-skill jobs in Omaha and beyond.