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Translating research to change the way ​America ​​cares for ​​children and​ ​families.

We are internationally recognized as a leader in clinical and research programs focusing on childhood deafness, developmental language disorder, and related communication disorders. In 2013, we began a new frontier in neurobehavioral research using brain imaging techniques to better help diagnose and treat troubled children with severe behavioral and mental health problems.

Areas of ​Research

 

 

Balance ResearchDoctor doing Vestibular Reseach https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/balanceBalance Research
Center for Perception and Communication in Children (COBRE Grant)Cobre Areahttps://www.boystownhospital.org/research/cobreCenter for Perception and Communication in Children (COBRE Grant)
Child and Family Translational Researchadolescent boy looking at the camera smilinghttps://www.boystownhospital.org/research/translational-researchChild and Family Translational Research
Hearing and Speech Perception ResearchAudiologist tools on a medical charthttps://www.boystownhospital.org/research/hearing-speech-perceptionHearing and Speech Perception Research
Institute for Human NeuroscienceMRI and brain scanshttps://www.boystownhospital.org/research/institute-human-neuroscienceInstitute for Human Neuroscience
Neurobehavioral Research3T MRI machinehttps://www.boystownhospital.org/research/neurobehavioralNeurobehavioral Research
Sensory Neuroscience ResearchDNA Strand - Researchhttps://www.boystownhospital.org/research/sensory-neuroscienceSensory Neuroscience Research
Speech and Language ResearchSpeech language research https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/speech-languageSpeech and Language Research

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Research Connection​

Read the latest news about life-changing research at Boys Town National Research Hospital.​

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Cerebral Palsy: Microstructural Changes in the Spinal Cord Tied to Hand Motor Controlhttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/cerebral-palsy-microstructural-changes-in-spinal-cord-tied-to-hand-motor-controlCerebral Palsy: Microstructural Changes in the Spinal Cord Tied to Hand Motor Control2021-08-30T05:00:00Z<p>​While the study of brain structure and function in individuals with Cerebral Palsy (CP) is fairly common, until recently, the spinal cord has not been studied as closely due to difficulties with the spasticity caused by CP and the need to remain motionless during Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).</p><div style="width:100%;text-align:center;font-size:10px;margin-right:1rem;float:left;display:block;max-width:400px;"> <img alt="spinal cord image" src="https://assets.boystown.org/hosp_peds_images/spinal-cord_rollup.jpg" style="width:100%;display:block;" />Researchers at the Boys Town PoWER Laboratory have published research that ties microstructural changes in the spinal cord, including reduced grey matter in the cross-sectional areas, to deficits in manual dexterity.</div><p>But now, researchers at the Boys Town PoWER  (Physiology of Walking and Engineering Rehabilitation) Laboratory have published research that ties microstructural changes in the spinal cord, including reduced grey matter in the cross-sectional areas, to deficits in manual dexterity.</p><p>“Not only were we able to successfully image the spinal cord in adults with Cerebral Palsy, which has its challenges, but we were able to identify microstructural changes in the upper spinal cord and to connect these changes with hand functioning as measured by a clinical test," said Michael Trevarrow, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the PoWER Lab. </p><p>“By identifying alterations within the upper spinal cord and directly connecting those to sensory-motor impairments of the upper extremities, we are providing an avenue for future work to establish what other roles the spinal cord plays within this population," Trevarrow said. </p><p>For more information on this exciting new study from the PoWER Lab, visit: <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/dmcn.14860"><span style="text-decoration:underline;">https://doi.org/10.1111/dmcn.14860</span></a> </p>
New MRI Study: Reduced Threat Responsiveness Corresponds with Aggressive Behaviorhttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/new-mri-study-reduced-threat-responsivenessNew MRI Study: Reduced Threat Responsiveness Corresponds with Aggressive Behavior2021-08-24T05:00:00Z<p>​​​​​​​​In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers at Boys Town National Research Hospital Center for Neurobehavioral Research have linked reduced threat and reduced emotional responsiveness to recorded aggressive behavior in researched adolescents during their first three months in the Boys Town residential setting.​​</p><p>Previous studies have attempted to examine relationships between brain responses and self-reported aggression. But this study is the first to have an <em>objective</em> (observed and recorded) measure of aggressive incidents, as judged by trained Family-Teachers® in the Boys Town program.</p><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;float:left;display:block;max-width:280px;width:100%;margin-right:1rem;"> <img alt="snake image" src="https://assets.boystown.org/hosp_peds_images/looming-stimuli_image2.jpg" style="width:100%;display:block;" />Researchers used images of human and animal figures that were neutral or aggressive to measure threat or emotional response. </div><p>Researchers recruited adolescents shortly after arrival at the Boys Town residential program and measured their threat and emotional response to pictured human and animal figures that were neutral or aggressive as they loomed toward or moved away in the adolescent's field of view. The responses were recorded using an MRI scanner and looking at the reactions in segments of the brain, including the inferior frontal gyrus and the amygdala.  Those brain responses were then related to the number of aggressive incidents shown during the first 3 months of stay at Boys Town.</p><p>Many factors can make a child/adolescent more prone to aggressive behavior, including economic deprivation, poor parenting, maltreatment and even ADHD. But this study looks beyond those factors to neurocognitive dysfunctions that may make an individual more inclined to aggression. The reduced reaction to threat and reduced emotional responsiveness directly (as measured in <strong>M</strong>agnetic <strong>R</strong>esonance <strong>I</strong>maging) correlated to increased recorded episodes of aggressive behavior. </p><p>The researchers hypothesized two potential reasons for this increase. The first being a lack of ability to formulate the consequences of aggressive acts and the second may be related to reduced empathetic responsiveness. Though that wasn't part of this study, the underlying architecture for threat is the same as that for empathy.</p><div style="text-align:center;font-size:10px;float:right;display:block;max-width:280px;width:100%;margin-left:1rem;">​ <img alt="Brain MRI Image" src="https://assets.boystown.org/hosp_peds_images/looming-stimuli_image.jpg" style="width:100%;display:block;" />The responses were recorded using an MRI scanner and looking at the reactions in segments of the brain, including the inferior frontal gyrus and the amygdala. </div><p>​“What we clearly do show in this study is that lack of emotional response or reduced response to threat is a risk factor," said Dr. James Blair, Ph.D., one of the researchers and the Director of the Center for Neurobehavioral Research. “And we can understand why it is a risk factor with respect to poor decision making and corresponding empathic issues."</p><p>Asked about the future of this study and its findings, Dr. Blair stated, “We need better risk assessment tools – for aggression, self-harm and other mental health concerns.  This study is an early step in developing the next stage of assessment tools for aggression risk."</p><p>To learn more about the study and its findings, go to:​ <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsab058" target="_blank">10.1093/scan/nsab058 </a></p>​<br>
Researchers from Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals Visit Institute for Human Neurosciencehttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/madonna-tourResearchers from Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals Visit Institute for Human Neuroscience2021-08-23T05:00:00Z<p>​​We were happy to welcome research colleagues from the Institute for Rehabilitation Science and Engineering at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals for a tour at our Institute for Human Neuroscience on Boys Town campus. What an inspiring visit with so many smart minds in the room who work every day to advance research that improves the lives of patients, children and families.</p><div style="width:100%;text-align:left;font-size:10px;margin-right:1rem;display:block;max-width:830px;"> <img alt="Madonna Tour Participants" src="https://assets.boystown.org/hosp_peds_images/madonna-tour_rollup.jpg" style="width:100%;display:block;" /> <strong>Pictured Left to Right:</strong> Arash Gonabadi, MS, Assistant Research Director Rehabilitation Engineering Center, Madonna; Thad Buster, MS, Chief Research Analyst, Madonna; Judith M. Burnfield, PhD, PT, Director Institute for Rehabilitation Science and Engineering, Director Movement and Neurosciences Center, Madonna; <a href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/faculty/tony-wilson"> Tony Wilson, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Human Neuroscience</a>, Boys Town; Guilherme Cesar, PhD, PT, Assistant Research Director Movement and Neurosciences Center, Madonna; Susan Fager, PhD, CCC-SLP, Director Communication Center, Madonna; Dr. Jason Bruce, Executive Vice President of Healthcare and Director of Boys Town National Research Hospital and Clinics; Dr. Deepak Madhavan, Executive Medical Director, Boys Town Pediatric Neuroscience; <a href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/faculty/ryan-mccreery"> Ryan McCreery, Ph.D., Director of Research, Boys Town;</a><a href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/faculty/karla-mcgregor"> Karla McGregor, Ph.D., Director, Center for Childhood Deafness, Language and Learning, Boys Town</a> </div>​<br>
Boys Town’s Morgan Busboom Awarded Foundation for Physical Therapy PODS I Scholarshiphttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/morgan-busboom-awarded-foundationBoys Town’s Morgan Busboom Awarded Foundation for Physical Therapy PODS I Scholarship2021-07-26T05:00:00Z<p> <img src="https://assets.boystown.org/hosp_peds_images/busboom-morgan.jpg" alt="Morgan Busboom headshot" class="ms-rtePosition-2" style="margin:5px;width:300px;height:300px;" />Morgan Busboom, PT, DPT, of the Institute for Human Neuroscience at Boys Town National Research Hospital, was recently awarded a PODS I Mildred Wood Award from the Foundation for Physical Therapy. Funding from the foundation was provided to 21 of the most promising physical therapist researchers to help these new investigators begin their research careers and complete doctoral studies. </p><p>The award provides professional development opportunities for Busboom, as well as supports her dissertation work that she will be doing at Boys Town. Busboom, a Ph.D., student at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, is working at Boys Town's Institute for Human Neuroscience in the <a href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/institute-human-neuroscience/power">Physiology of Walking and Engineering Rehabilitation (PoWER) Laboratory</a> under the direction of Max Kurz, Ph.D. </p><p>With the help of this scholarship, Busboom will be focusing her dissertation on a project titled: Robotic Exoskeleton Gait Training in Adolescents with Cerebral Palsy. Through her research, Busboom will be studying new or better ways for patients with cerebral palsy to walk using robotic exoskeleton therapy and how the clinically relevant changes are connected with improvements in the brain and spinal cord activity. </p><p>“We're using the robotic exoskeleton in a way that is a little bit different than you would think. A robotic exoskeleton is used a lot of times in rehab to assist or support a patient as they perform gait training. I am proposing to use the robot to perturb the leg movements during physical therapy to enhance the nervous systems exploration of new and better ways to walk," explained Busboom of her dissertation work. </p><p>Having grown up in Nebraska, Busboom was familiar with Boys Town and is excited to be working in the Institute for Human Neuroscience. “I grew up in Nebraska and had heard about Boys Town. I wasn't aware of all the research opportunities here so that's been the most exciting thing - learning about Dr. Kurz and Dr. Wilson coming to Boys Town and their 'why' for coming here, as well as seeing all of the resources available at Boys Town and the excitement around research," said Busboom. </p><p>In addition to her work at Boys Town, Busboom also is a contracted pediatric physical therapist. “It's interesting to see both the hospital side of physical therapy and the research side. Seeing both helps me to develop new ideas for research." </p><p>“Morgan is extremely creative in her thought process and has a knack for disentangling the source of the movement challenges seen in the patients she treats. She is very deserving of this award and is well on her way towards making an impact on the treatment strategies used at Boys Town and across the clinics in the United States," said Dr. Kurz.</p><p> <em>The </em> <a href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/institute-human-neuroscience"> <em>Institute for Human Neuroscience</em></a><em> at Boys Town National Research Hospital opened in March 2021. Located on Boys Town campus in Omaha, Nebraska, it is one of the most cutting-edge neuroscience research facilities in the nation and the only site in the world with two next-generation MEG (magnetoencephalography) systems.</em></p>
Change Lives and Earn Moneyhttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/change-lives-earn-moneyChange Lives and Earn Money2021-07-21T05:00:00Z<p>You can earn money, help advance science and change lives by participating in research studies this summer at Boys Town! Boys Town is looking for participants from all age groups to join our life-changing research studies. Participants can earn at least $15 per hour for their time. Studies are non-invasive and fun – and can help change the lives of children with hearing, communication, developmental, behavioral and mental health challenges.  We need participants with and without these challenges.</p><p> <a href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/participate">Browse our list of current openings</a> and sign up today! This is a great summer break activity for kids and adults alike! <strong>Don't see a study that fits you?</strong> Boys Town is always looking for research participants<a href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/participate">; sign up</a> to be notified of future studies. </p>
Let the Children Talk (to Themselves) - It Helps Memoryhttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/let-the-children-talkLet the Children Talk (to Themselves) - It Helps Memory2021-07-19T05:00:00Z<p>​​​​It's the middle of your remote workday. You leave your home office, but the moment you enter the kitchen, you've completely forgotten what you wanted in the first place. You muse aloud "why did I come in here?" and proceed to talk yourself through the sequence of events that led to your arrival in the kitchen. Adults commonly use these self-talk strategies to remember and problem solve. However, in these days of remote learning, you may have noticed that your children's memory lapses are less often accompanied by self-talk. In fact, it's long been thought that children younger than 7 are unable to use a self-talk tool called rehearsal to help them remember lists of things. But thanks to a modernized version of five-decades-old study, we now have a much better idea of when rehearsal develops.</p><p> <img src="https://assets.boystown.org/hosp_peds_images/EAC-Lab-Still-1.jpg" alt="Study participants point to the pictures, just as they did in the original Flavell study." style="margin:5px;" /> <br> </p><div> <span class="ms-rteStyle-References">Study participants point to the pictures, just as they did in the original Flavell study</span>.</div><div> <br> </div><div>In 1966, Flavell, Beach, and Chinksy showed 60 children --5, 7, and 10-year-olds -- sequences of hand drawn pictures. After each sequence, the researchers laid out the pictures and asked the child to point to the pictures in the order. Meanwhile, another researcher discretely watched the child's mouth for subtle movement that indicate the child was talking to herself. In the original study, only the 7- and 10-year-olds spontaneously took advantage of rehearsal to help remember the lists.</div><p> <img src="https://assets.boystown.org/hosp_peds_images/EAC-Lab-Still-2.jpg" alt="The participants vision was obstructed during the delay period prior to recall, just as was done in the 1966 study." style="margin:5px;" /> <br> </p> <span class="ms-rteStyle-References">The participants vision was obstructed during the </span> <span class="ms-rteStyle-References"></span> <span class="ms-rteStyle-References">delay period prior to recall, just as was done in the 1966 study.</span> <p> <span class="ms-rteStyle-References"></span> <br></p><p>Fast forward to 2017. Dr. Emily Elliott of Louisiana State University, Dr. Candice Morey of Cardiff University and Dr. Angela AuBuchon of Boys Town National Research Hospital® struggled to reconcile the results from 1966 with new research from their colleague Dr. Chris Jarrold at the University of Bristol. Dr. Jarrold used different methods than the 1966 study, but his results suggested that 5- and 6-year-olds might also be using very simple forms of rehearsal on memory tests. </p><p> <img src="https://assets.boystown.org/hosp_peds_images/EAC-Lab-Still-3.jpg" alt="Care was taken to replicate the obstruction of vision during delay periods." style="margin:5px;" /> <br> </p> <span class="ms-rteStyle-References">Care was taken to replicate the obstruction of vision during delay periods.</span> <p> <br> </p><p>Drs. Elliott, Morey, and AuBuchon decided to find out if the inconsistency could be explained by either the differing methods or the passage of time, so they proposed to lead a multi-site registered replication report of the 1966 study. After their proposal was accepted by the journal Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychology Science (AMPPS), they made all of their materials – from the study protocol and experimental program to the data analysis code – available on Open Science Framework (OSF). They invited researchers around the world to conduct the experiment in the own labs and contribute data. Ultimately, the replication included 977 children from 17 labs – including the three lead authors' and Dr. Jarrold's – representing not only the United States and the United Kingdom, but also Turkey, Norway, New Zealand, Germany, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Italy, and Austria.</p><p> <img src="https://assets.boystown.org/hosp_peds_images/EAC-Lab-Still-5.jpg" alt="Study participants from 17 sites worldwide were observed as they provided verbal labels for items presented on the computer scre" style="margin:5px;" /> <br> </p> <span class="ms-rteStyle-References">Study participants from 17 sites worldwide were observed as they provided verbal labels for items presented on the computer screen.</span> <p> <br> </p><p>Careful attention was paid to preserving key elements of the original study. However, the replication was modernized to reflect current research practices. For example, pictures were presented on a computer to standardize the experiment across of the labs. They also video recorded the children, when possible, to assure that lip movements were reliably monitored.  The new study also included a subset of 6-year-olds to better asses the presumed transition from non-verbal memorization in younger children to rehearsal in older children.</p><p>The replication upheld the core of Flavell and colleagues 1966 finding – fewer 5- and 6-year-olds than 7- and 10-year-olds used self-talk. Importantly, though, many more 5- and 6- year-olds used self-talk than would have been predicted by the original 1966 study.  With the expanded study size, 75% of 5-year-olds were found to verbalize as a memory tool at least part of the time, versus 10% in the Flavell study. The updated research also suggests that increased verbalization led to increased memory span performance in the participating children regardless of the participants' age. The benefits of pointing and verbalizing in these memory exercises were particularly prominent in 6-year-olds, who were added to the replication study and were not present in Flavell's original study.</p><p> <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/25152459211018187" target="_blank">Click here</a> to read the newly published replication study.</p><p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/25152459211018187" target="_blank">https://doi.org/10.1177/25152459211018187</a></p>​<br>

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