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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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Improving the Diagnosis of Otitis Media (Ear Infection) in Pediatric Patientshttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/research-improves-ear-infection-diagnosis-in-pediatricsImproving the Diagnosis of Otitis Media (Ear Infection) in Pediatric Patients2021-11-29T06:00:00Z<p>​Waking up in the middle of the night to a crying child suffering from an ear infection is an all too familiar event for many parents. In fact, most parents would not be surprised to learn that otitis media (ear infection) is the No. 1 cause for pediatric office visits, the No. 1 cause for antibiotic use in children, and the No. 1 cause for surgery in children. </p><p>Boys Town National Research Hospital is leading the way to discover new techniques that can determine the level and type of fluid in a child's middle ear, as well as whether the cause is bacteria, a virus, or fluid build-up due to anatomical differences in a child's middle ear. Having improved diagnostic tools will help physicians deliver the most accurate diagnosis and care plan for their patients. </p><h2> <strong>Improving Otitis Media Care and Treatment</strong></h2><ul><li>Placing tubes in a child's ear, while a common procedure, is still a big deal for the child and parents. At Boys Town Ear, Nose and Throat, we deal with this every day. With the help of volunteer families, our researchers were able to gain valuable knowledge by examining and testing children before and after tubes were placed. We'll <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33974785/" target="_blank"> <span style="text-decoration:underline;">use this research</span></a> to better understand how fluid in the ear affects hearing, and to determine the best treatments for ear infections.</li><li>To ensure proper treatment, getting an accurate diagnosis is vital, but making that diagnosis as simple and objective as possible is important when dealing with young children. The Boys Town research team is <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33928915/" target="_blank"> <span style="text-decoration:underline;">studying a new objective middle-ear test</span></a> that involves simply placing an ear tip with a microphone in a child's ear. This new method gives us valuable information about middle-ear status, lessening the chance for a misdiagnosis.</li><li>Lastly, we are researching ways to refine the information we get from our <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34470321/" target="_blank"> <span style="text-decoration:underline;">advanced diagnostic techniques</span></a>. This involves applying computational models to the data we get from an exam on a child with an ear infection to further improve the new diagnostic tools we are developing.</li></ul><h2> <strong>Accurate Diagnosis Means Improved Outcomes</strong></h2><p>Getting the diagnosis right is of the utmost importance. While doctors do an admirable job of diagnosing and treating otitis media, there's a need for more accurate measures that can determine the level and type of fluid in a child's middle ear, as well as whether the cause is bacteria, a virus, or fluid build-up due to the dysfunction of the child's middle ear.</p><p>The Boys Town Center for Hearing Research is leading the way to discover new techniques. </p><p>"We want to better understand ear infections and differentiate between causes more effectively," said <a href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/faculty/gabrielle-merchant"> <span style="text-decoration:underline;">Gabrielle Merchant, Au.D., Ph.D.</span></a>, Director of the Translational Auditory Physiology and Perception Laboratory. "By improving the diagnosis, we are improving the treatment and ultimately improving the lives of children." </p><h2> <strong>Three Recent Research Papers</strong></h2><p>The Center for Hearing Research recently published three papers on improving diagnostic testing for otitis media.</p><p>"Our goal is to find objective ways to say 'yes, there's an ear infection' or 'no, there is not bacteria present' or 'it is caused by a virus,'" Dr. Merchant said. "Ultimately, we want to avoid unnecessary surgeries or unnecessary use of antibiotics while ensuring the child is properly treated."</p><p>The first paper, “<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33974785/" target="_blank"><span style="text-decoration:underline;">Audiologic Profiles of Children with Otitis Media with Effusion</span></a>," illustrates research done with children recruited from ear, nose and throat clinics who were having tubes placed. </p><p>The researchers first perform a battery of standard hearing tests, including tympanometry and behavioral audiometric testing, following up with experimental tests that are FDA-approved.</p><p>After the tubes are placed, the effusion is studied for the type and amount of fluid present, which is then compared to the results from testing. This work found that the amount, or volume, of effusion is an important determinant of the impact a given episode of otitis media has on a child's hearing. </p><p>The second paper, “<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33928915/" target="_blank"><span style="text-decoration:underline;">Improving the Differential Diagnosis of Otitis Media with Effusion Using Wideband Acoustic Immittance (WAI)</span></a>," utilizes a relatively new diagnostic tool called wideband acoustic immittance (WAI). WAI measures how the ear drum is moving in an affected ear. This, in turn, can tell us things about what is happening behind the ear drum. This paper found that WAI could determine the volume of effusion in a child's ear. This is particularly significant given the findings of the first paper, which demonstrated that volume is an important factor as to how a child is hearing. </p><p>"It's quick and easy," Dr. Merchant said. "We place a microphone in a child's ear, press a button, then take it out."</p><p>Dr. Merchant said that larger sample sizes are needed before moving this diagnostic tool to clinical settings. The advantage of WAI is that it takes the subjectivity out of assessment of ear drum and middle-ear status. </p><p>The third paper, “<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34470321/" target="_blank"><span style="text-decoration:underline;">The Influence of Otitis Media with Effusion on Middle-Ear Impedance Estimated from Wideband Acoustic Immittance Measurements</span></a>," takes WAI testing further by applying computational models to the findings from the first and second papers to improve the diagnostic utility of WAI further. The models estimate characteristics of the ear canal and help isolate the influence of the effusion and ear infection on the ear drum motion, all to drive and maximize precision and accuracy.</p>
Unlike Any Other Physical Therapy Clinic – Introducing Boys Town’s Center for Human Performance Optimizationhttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/physical-therapy-mobility-research-centerUnlike Any Other Physical Therapy Clinic – Introducing Boys Town’s Center for Human Performance Optimization2021-11-08T06:00:00Z<p>​The Center for Human Performance Optimization at Boys Town National Research Hospital is a place where adolescents who have a physical disability are surrounded by dedicated physical therapists, leading researchers and the most advanced motion technology and equipment to create a unique hybrid in neuroscience care.  This collaborative research style makes the center and the institute unique, not only in Omaha but also nationwide.</p><p>“We have built a world-class environment where we can research cutting-edge physical therapy interventions and training," said Brad Corr, PT, DPT, Associate Director of the Center for Human Performance Optimization (CHPO). “Father Flanagan recognized the importance and strong influence environment has in how we think, perform and learn. The environment in the CHPO is designed to feel more like a fitness or sports facility than a medical clinic."</p><div class="embed-container"> <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/mmh4rBVGCnw?rel=0" frameborder="0"></iframe> </div> <p>This 2,300-square-foot physical therapy center is filled with equipment that has been specially chosen to enhance skills for kids of all abilities, such as the 60+ foot track with overhead robotics to optimize walking and provide safely guided fall strategies without risk of injury, and specialized split belt and curved treadmills to increase leg power and improve gait. With the Institute for Human Neuroscience next door, collaboration will focus on developing rapid prototypes of technology and therapeutics so that every individual can have a breakthrough in improving their mobility. It is very unusual to find a scenario where science and clinical practices are almost indistinguishable from each other.</p><p>“Our mission is to change the way America cares for children and families," said Ryan McCreery, Ph.D., Vice President of Boys Town Research. “Research plays a major role in that change. Boys Town has a unique approach of blending research and clinical care that generates new and better ways to improve and transform lives. It's what we do every day across all our research, guiding us to better outcomes and helping more children, everywhere." </p><p>Learn more about <a href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/institute-human-neuroscience/human-performance-optimization"><span style="text-decoration:underline;">Center for Human Performance Optimization</span></a>.</p>
The Dizzy Childhttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/diagnosing-dizziness-in-childrenThe Dizzy Child2021-10-14T05:00:00Z<p>​​​While <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0030666521001274?via%3Dihub" target="_blank"><em>The Dizzy Child</em></a>, the title of a new paper published in the <em>Otolaryngologic Clinics of North America</em>, by Elizabeth Kelly, M.D., Neurotologist, Kristen Janky, Au.D., Ph.D., Clinical Audiologist and Research Scientist, and Jessie Patterson, Au.D., Ph.D., Clinical and Research Audiologist at Boys Town National Research Hospital, may sound somewhat lighthearted, up to 15% of children have problems with dizziness. </p><p>Unfortunately, most children with dizziness are diagnosed with "unspecified dizziness", which highlights the difficulty many practitioners have in determining the cause of dizziness in children. Therefore, understanding the cause of dizziness in children is a growing area of research.</p><h2>Difficulty in Diagnosing</h2><p>Young children have trouble communicating their symptoms, thus inhibiting medical provider's from making an accurate diagnosis. Balance problems can cause children a great deal of discomfort and stress because they can affect gross motor development and visual acuity. It's no surprise that balance disorders can then impact children's schoolwork, social life, and interactions with family. The longer dizziness goes on, the more a child is negatively impacted. Thus, it's important for caregivers to be aware of changes in a child's behavior or motor function.</p><h2>Aids for Caregivers</h2><p>Two pediatric questionnaires, the <a href="https://www.vumc.org/balance-lab/sites/vumc.org.balance-lab/files/public_files/DHI%20-%20PC.pdf" target="_blank">Pediatric Dizziness Handicap Inventory</a> and the <a href="https://assets.boystown.org/hosp_peds_docs/Pediatric-Vestibular-Symptom-Questionnaire.pdf">Pediatric Vestibu​lar Symptom Questionnaire​</a>​ are both available for children age 6 and older to determine the severity of vestibular symptoms. The results garnered from these tools can help a child's medical provider identify the severity of dizziness and monitor changes in symptoms following treatment. </p><h2>Vestibular Evaluation in Children</h2><p>Vestibular loss often results in delayed gross motor skills, such as sitting, standing, and learning to walk. Thus, the medical history can play a critical role in determining whether a child has an underlying vestibular disorder. Children with hearing loss are more likely to have vestibular loss; therefore, children with history of gross motor delay and with history of hearing loss are good candidates for a vestibular evaluation. </p><p>There are a variety of reasons children can become dizzy. For example, vestibular migraines are the most common cause of dizziness in children. Thankfully, some modifications medical and vestibular assessments can be completed in children.</p><p>Learn more about our <a href="/services/ear-nose-throat-institute/hearing-balance/balance-vestibular-evaluations">Balance and Vestibular Evaluations</a> and the <a href="/services/ear-nose-throat-institute/hearing-balance/vestibular-tests-treatments">Vestibular Tests and Treatments</a> offered at Boys Town National Research Hospital. </p><p>To read the full article, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.otc.2021.06.002" target="_blank">https://doi.org/10.1016/j.otc.2021.06.002</a>.</p>
Annual Research Project Review Showcases Collaborationhttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/research-collaboration-reviewAnnual Research Project Review Showcases Collaboration2021-09-28T05:00:00Z<p>​We know knowledge is power and that when you collaborate with others it can lead to important insights and discoveries. That's the goal behind the External Advisory Committee at Boys Town's Center for Perception and Communication in Children.<br></p><p>Each year, a group of Boys Town scientists present their research projects during a two-day meeting with an external advisory group that includes five members who are national leaders in their field of study. Boys Town researchers gain valuable input and feedback from committee members, as well as experience presenting and discussing their research.</p><p>Our 2021 research presentations included: </p><ul><li> <strong> <em>Improving the Diagnosis of Ear Infections</em></strong><br> by <a href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/faculty/gabrielle-merchant">Gabrielle Merchant, Au.D., Ph.D.</a>, Director of Translational Auditory Physiology and Perception Laboratory</li><li> <strong><em>Understanding How Face Masks Affect Speech Perception </em></strong> <br>by <a href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/faculty/kaylah-lalonde">Kaylah Lalonde, Ph.D.</a>, Director of Audiovisual Speech Processing Laboratory</li><li> <strong><em>Development of Online Tool for Speech-Language Genetics Research </em></strong> <br>by <a href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/faculty/hope-sparks-lancaster">Hope Sparks Lancaster, Ph.D.</a>, Director of Etiologies of Language and Literacy Laboratory</li><li> <strong><em>Studying Self-Talk in Children </em></strong> <br>by <a href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/faculty/angela-aubuchon">Angela AuBuchon, Ph.D.</a>, Director of Working Memory and Language Laboratory </li></ul><p> <a href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/cobre/external-advisory-committee">Watch videos</a> on the four projects that were presented, and learn more about the External Advisory Committee supporting the Center for Perception and Communication in Children.</p><p>External Advisory Committee members include:  </p><ul><li>Lisa Bedore, Ph.D., a leading expert in developmental language disorders and language learning in children who are Spanish-English bilinguals</li><li> <a href="https://bbs.utdallas.edu/language-in-motion/" target="_blank">Lisa Goffman, Ph.D.</a>, known for her work investigating how the integration of language, speech, and motor interactions impacts typical and atypical language development. </li><li> <a href="https://www.queensu.ca/psychology/speech-perception-and-production-lab" target="_blank">Kevin Munhall, Ph.D.</a>, recognized for his work on the multisensory processes and brain structures involved in face-to-face communication.</li><li> <a href="http://apc.psych.umn.edu/" target="_blank">Andrew Oxenham, Ph.D.</a>, respected for his work on auditory and speech perception, addressing questions related to pitch, speech recognition with acoustic and/or electric hearing, and auditory scene analysis.</li><li> <a href="https://keck.usc.edu/faculty-search/robert-shannon/" target="_blank">Robert Shannon, Ph.D.</a>, known for his work on the perception of speech and non-speech sounds by people with cochlear implants, brainstem implants, and midbrain implants. </li></ul>
Three Boys Town Research Projects Receive ASHA Awardhttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/asha-distinguished-editor-award-boys-townThree Boys Town Research Projects Receive ASHA Award2021-09-23T05:00:00Z<p>​<strong>​Three Boys Town Research Projects Receive the Distinguished Editor's Award from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) </strong></p><p>To have one researcher paper recognized for this award is impressive, but we are extremely proud to announce that three publications by four Boys Town researchers have received the Editor's Award from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).</p><p>Congratulations to Lori Leibold, Director, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Hearing Research; Heather Porter, Ph.D., Research Scientist at the Human Auditory Development Laboratory; Karla McGregor, Director of the Center for Childhood Deafness, Language and Learning; and Krystal Werfel, Ph.D., Research Scientist III, Written Language Laboratory, for receiving this highly esteemed award. </p><p>“We are honored to be recognized for our collaborative work, and hope that it shines some light on the communication challenges children face in noisy environments such as classrooms.," said Dr. Leibold. </p><p>Receiving an Editor's Award is one of the highest honors an individual can receive. It is presented to the editor's choice of the most commendable single article appearing in each journal in 2020. Winning articles are selected by the editorial team, including the editor-in-chief, based on experimental design, teaching-education value, scientific or clinical merit, contribution to the professions, theoretical impact, and/or other indices of merit. </p><p>“Being recognized by leaders in my profession is an honor but being recognized for work that was a product of my heart as well as my brain...even more so," said Dr. McGregor. “I am passionate about raising awareness of Developmental Language Disorder and maybe this award will shine a bit of light in that direction."</p><p>“We are honored to be recognized for this work addressing the complexities of literacy intervention for children with hearing loss and hope that this award will help to inspire and advance other research that addresses this critical issue," stated Dr. Werfel. </p><p>The following articles by Boys Town researchers were selected for this award: </p><p> <em><strong>Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools</strong></em><br><strong>Editor-in-Chief: Holly Storkel</strong><br><a href="https://doi.org/10.1044/2020_LSHSS-20-00003" target="_blank">How We Fail Children With Developmental Language Disorder</a><br> Karla K. McGregor</p><p> <em> <strong>Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research</strong></em><strong>—Hearing Section</strong><br><strong>Editor-in-Chief: Peggy Nelson</strong><br><a href="https://doi.org/10.1044/2020_JSLHR-20-00353" target="_blank">The Clear-Speech Benefit for School-Age Children: Speech-in-Noise and Speech-in-Speech Recognition</a><br> Lauren Calandruccio, Heather L. Porter, Lori J. Leibold and Emily Buss</p><p> <em> <strong>Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups</strong></em><br><strong> </strong><strong>Editor-in-Chief: Brenda Beverly</strong><br><a href="https://doi.org/10.1044/2020_PERSP-20-00023" target="_blank">Teaching Vocabulary to Improve Print Knowledge in Preschool Children With Hearing Loss</a><br> Emily Lund, Carly Miller, W. Michael Douglas and Krystal Werfel</p><p>Congratulations to Dr. Lori Leibold, Dr. Heather Porter, Dr. Karla McGregor and Dr. Krystal Werfel on this prestigious award! </p>
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>

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