​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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

​​

Research Connection​

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

View All News

 

 

Remembering a Visionary, Dr. Pat Stelmachowiczhttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/remembering-pat-stelmachowicz-endowment-fundRemembering a Visionary, Dr. Pat Stelmachowicz2021-02-09T06:00:00Z<p>​​​​A leader, visionary and scholar in audiology research, Pat Stelmachowcz, Ph.D., will be remembered for her contributions to the field and their translational impact that improved the lives of so many with hearing loss.  </p><p>Pat passed away in January 2021. Her husband and research colleague, Michael Gorga, Ph.D., has established the <strong>Pat Stelmachowicz Audiology/Hearing Research Endowed Fund</strong> to help continue the legacy of Boys Town's nationally recognized translational hearing research. Contributions made in memory of Pat will with designated to the Fund. <a href="https://support.boystown.org/site/Donation2?df_id=2421&mfc_pref=T&2421.donation=form1&s_src=web&s_subsrc=pat_s" target="_blank">Click here to donate</a>.<br></p><p>Pat began her Boys Town career in 1980. From 1994 until her retirement in 2014, Pat served as Director of Audiology & Vestibular Services. Her work fundamentally changed pediatric hearing aid research, clinical practice, and the design of hearing aids.</p><p>Although she retired from Boys Town in 2014, her legacy lives on through the important clinical and research programs she led in pediatric audiology. Serving as Director of Audiology & Vestibular Services for 20 years, Pat made many contributions to Boys Town Hospital, including her early mentorship of Ryan McCreery, Ph.D., current Director of Research, who started as an audiology intern.</p><p>“Dr. Pat Stelmachowicz was an internationally recognized leader in the field of pediatric audiology. Her research provided an important foundation for how audiologists fit hearing aids for infants and young children today," said Ryan.“She was an outstanding mentor to many audiologists and scientists and built theBoys Town audiology program into one of the best in the nation.  Pat will be greatly missed."</p><p>As a renowned researcher in her field, Pat had close collaborations with many national and international scientists working in the field of audiology research. She served as a mentor for many of the current leaders in pediatric audiology research who work across the United States.</p><p>Pat was recognized nationwide for her groundbreaking research, having received the  D​istinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Iowa and the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 6th International Phonak Sound Foundations Conference in 2013; and in 2015, she was honored by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) with the Honors of the Association award, which is the highest career achievement award bestowed by the organization. Pat was also a nominee for the 2013 Kleffner Lifeti​me Clinical Career Award by the Nebraska Speech Language and Hearing Association.</p><h2>Continuing Her Legacy – Research Endowed Fund</h2><p>Pat Stelmachowicz Audiology/Hearing Research Endowed Fund has been established to support translational hearing research at Boys Town. Donations in Pat Stelmachowicz's memory can be given in two ways:</p><ol><li>Mail check or cash to:<br> Boys Town<br> Attention: Pat Stelmachowicz Memorial<br> PO Box 8000<br> Boys Town, NE 68010</li> <br> <li> <a href="https://support.boystown.org/site/Donation2?df_id=2421&mfc_pref=T&2421.donation=form1&s_src=web&s_subsrc=pat_s" target="_blank">Click here to donate.</a> Contributions designated in memory of Pat will be allocated to the Pat Stelmachowicz Audiology/Hearing Research Endowed Fund</li></ol>
$35,000 Research Grant Awarded to Boys Town Hospital Audiologistshttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/research-grant-awarded-to-boys-town-audiologists$35,000 Research Grant Awarded to Boys Town Hospital Audiologists2021-02-05T06:00:00Z<p>A team of research and clinical audiologists at Boys Town National Research Hospital<sup>®</sup> was recently awarded a $35,000 Researcher-Practitioner Collaboration Grant from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation (ASHFoundation).</p><p>The grant money is being used to improve high-frequency auditory brainstem response (ABR) testing. This test is important for identifying and measuring levels of hearing in individuals who are unable to provide reliable behavioral responses to sound, such as infants, very young children and individuals with significant developmental delays. At the time ABR testing was first being evaluated for clinical application, it was thought that high frequencies were not critical for speech understanding. However, more recent research suggests otherwise.</p><p>According to <a href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/hearing-speech-perception/human-auditory-development/team">Heather Porter, Ph.D.</a>, the study's co-investigator and a research associate, this research has the potential to improve the diagnosis of high-frequency hearing loss, which can be directly applied to hearing aid programming at high frequencies. Jan Kaminski, the study's other co-investigator and coordinator of Boys Town Hospital's Clinical Sensory Physiology Laboratory, was part of the Boys Town team who originally evaluated ABR testing for widespread clinical implementation. She understands first-hand the widespread impact that researcher-clinician collaborations can have on patient care.</p><p>“Our objective is to overcome obstacles to clinical implementation of ABR testing at high frequencies because we now know that high-frequency audibility is important for hearing in daily life," explained Dr. Porter. “A large body of evidence now shows that high-frequency information contributes to successful speech understanding, sound localization and listening in background noise. Many of these important findings came from hearing research done at Boys Town by our former Director of Audiology, Dr. Patricia Stelmachowicz." </p><p>The research is expected to have direct clinical application wherever ABR testing is performed. That is one of the primary reasons the grant was awarded to Boys Town. The ASHFoundation encourages collaborations between researchers and practitioners to increase knowledge that will improve and enhance the care provided to individuals with communication disorders. </p><p>“We are proud to continue the tradition of leadership in translational research established at Boys Town National Research Hospital by those that came before us," Dr. Porter said. “This study would not be possible if not for their example, research findings and development of the infrastructure to support this kind of collaborative translational research." </p><p>In addition to Dr. Porter and co-investigator Jan Kaminski, the research team includes clinical experts in ABR assessment, Drs. Anastasia Grindle, Brenda Hoover, Ashley Kaufman, Natalie Lenzen, Haley McTee and Susan Stangl. The team embraces participation of current audiology trainees Christina Dubas and Abigail Petty, as student involvement is an important investment in inspiring future generations to support translational research to advance evidence-based care for individuals with communication disorders.  </p>
Retrieval-Based and Spaced Learning: Two Strategies to Support Word Learninghttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/retrieval-based-and-space-learning-language-disordersRetrieval-Based and Spaced Learning: Two Strategies to Support Word Learning2021-02-02T06:00:00Z<p>​​Sometimes, tried-and-true teaching methods are just that – effective and for good reason. However, in the past that reason may not itself have been tested. That's why the new article: “The Advantages of Retrieval-Based and Spaced Practice: Implications for Word Learning in Clinical and Educational Contexts," is so significant.</p><p>In this article, Katherine Gordon, Ph.D., Director of the <a href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/speech-language/language-learning-memory">Language Learning and Memory Laboratory</a> at Boys Town National Research Hospital®, has taken the outcomes of dozens of research studies with individuals who have language disorders and synthesized them to make a case for two of the oldest teaching methods and their use in classroom education. </p><p>Retrieval-based practice and spaced practice are effective learning strategies for children and adults with typical development. However, students who know fewer words can struggle to understand classroom content and miss out on a lot of important information. This is especially the case for students with language disorders, including students with developmental language disorder (DLD). </p><p>A key question of Dr. Gordon's review is whether proven teaching methods support vocabulary learning in children with language disorders. The answer to this question is “yes." </p><p>An essential part of the solution is to use teaching strategies that help children learn words during the lesson and remember the words long-term. Without this, educators are pouring water into a leaky bucket. Children may show good learning in the moment but quickly forget the words once the lesson is over.  </p><h2>Tried-and-True: Testing and Flash Cards</h2><p>During retrieval-based learning, the teacher asks the student to retrieve something that they learned previously from memory. However, this strategy does not need to use formal testing to be effective. Retrieval-based learning can occur anytime a teacher asks a student a question about key information. </p><p>Learning with flashcards is a common and familiar form of retrieval-based learning. The teacher is not just testing the student's knowledge of the information, but also supporting the student's ability to learn the information. By actively trying to remember the key information during a lesson, the student is more likely to remember that information when the lesson is over. </p><p>In the research reviewed by Dr. Gordon, it became apparent that word learning is achieved most effectively through effortful retrieval (testing) instead of passive listening for students with language disorders.  </p><h2>Key Components of Retrieval-Based Learning</h2><p>The literature reviewed by Dr. Gordon showed that retrieval-based learning benefitted adults and children with language disorders and promoted better learning and retention of the material over time. Most of the retrieval-based learning articles Dr. Gordon reviewed shared three key components. </p><h3>1. Opportunity for Effortful Retrieval of the Material Early in the Learning Session</h3><p>Learners do not like to be asked to remember information they've only heard a few times. </p><p>When teaching vocabulary to individuals with language disorders it seems logical to present the key words many times before asking the student about it. However, testing the student's memory for words early in the learning session produces better results. This may seem counterintuitive as students are likely to get the answer wrong if they are asked questions early in the lesson, however, trying to remember key information and getting an answer wrong can actually benefit learning if the student is given feedback. In general, students become more engaged and more aware of what they are getting from the lesson if they are asked questions early and often.</p><h3>2. Providing the Correct Answer Promptly and Explaining it Thoroughly </h3><p>As mentioned above, students are more likely to learn information after getting an answer wrong. They can become aware that they do not yet know the information fully and put in more effort to learn it. </p><h3>3. Providing the Learner Multiple Chances to Retrieve the Learned Information </h3><p>A vital element in this third aspect is having the learner retrieve information multiple times, even if they answered it correctly the first time. Repeated retrievals of learned words increased the chances that the information learned would be retained even after a delay.</p><h2>Cram for That Exam? Not the Best Way to Study.</h2><p>Spaced practice has been strongly shown to support learning in individuals with typical development. In her review, Dr. Gordon found that spaced practice supports word learning in individuals with language disorders. </p><p>When you think of spaced practice learning, think of your parents or junior high teachers telling you, “It's better to study it for 20 minutes every night than to cram for an hour before the test." Recent research demonstrates that they were right. </p><p>Spaced practice occurs when the same information is presented multiple times, but those presentations are spaced across time. A common example is a student studying with flashcards every day the week before an exam. In this way they introduce a space in time between each time the cards are studied. </p><p>Like retrieval-based practice, spaced practice is beneficial because it makes the student put in effort when trying to remember the key information. If a student is asked a question directly after they hear the information, it may be easy for them to remember the information. However, if asked a question after a delay, even a delay as short as 10 minutes, they must work harder to remember the information.</p><p>Educators and clinicians can introduce spaced practice during a lesson by asking about each key word at the beginning of a lesson, providing information about the key words in the middle of the lesson and then asking about each key word again at the end of a lesson. </p><p>Spaced learning can also be introduced across lessons. For example, students can be asked about words they learned yesterday or earlier in the week. Combining retrieval-based practice and spaced practice can be particularly powerful. By spacing out opportunities to retrieve information, educators can increase the likelihood that students, including students with language disorders, will remember the information long-term.</p><h2>Learning that Lasts</h2><p>To change the educational outcomes for individuals with language disorders, it is important to get past pouring water into the leaky bucket. Individuals with language disorders need to develop strong mem​ories for words that they are taught in lessons for them to be able to use those words in the classroom and in their everyday lives. </p><p>As all educators realize, meaningful word learning does not occur in one sitting. Learners need to be exposed to words repeatedly to commit them to memory. Using retrieval-based and spaced practice over repeated classes or language therapy sessions, is the best way to help students learn and remember words. Children with language disorders enrolled in therapy can receive retrieval-based and spaced practice that is more tailored to their individual needs.</p><p>For more information about how spaced and retrieval-based practice can be used to support vocabulary learning, read Dr. Gordon's full paper here: <a href="https://osf.io/nm4uj/" target="_blank">https://osf.io/nm4uj/</a></p><p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1044/2020_LSHSS-19i-00001" target="_blank">https://doi.org/10.1044/2020_LSHSS-19i-00001</a><br></p><p> <strong>Dr. Gordon is continuing </strong>this research line to learn how to further optimize these learning techniques for the benefit of children with language disorders. By giving educators and clinicians the tools to support vocabulary learning that lasts, they can best support academic success for individuals with language disorders.</p>
Boys Town Researchers Featured in ASHA Top 10 Articles of the Yearhttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/asha-top-10-articles-features-boys-town-researchBoys Town Researchers Featured in ASHA Top 10 Articles of the Year2021-01-20T06:00:00Z<p>American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Journals Academy has released their top ten articles of 2020, and three publications by Boys Town researchers earned a spot on the list! </p><p>“This is really an incredible honor," says <a href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/faculty/ryan-mccreery">Ryan McCreery, Ph.D.</a>, Director of Boys Town Research. “Having one article on this list is impressive. Having three truly speaks to the innovation, dedication and talent of our speech-language research team and path they are leading to change the way America cares for children with language disorders." </p><h2>Top Articles from Boys Town Research </h2><p> <a href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/faculty/karla-mcgregor">Karla McGregor, Ph.D.</a>, Director of the Center for Childhood Deafness, Language and Learning, had two articles featured: </p><ul><li> <a href="https://pubs.asha.org/doi/10.1044/2020_LSHSS-20-00003" target="_blank">How We Fail Children with Developmental Language Disorder</a></li><li> <a href="https://pubs.asha.org/doi/10.1044/2019_PERSP-19-00083" target="_blank">Developmental Language Disorder: Applications for Advocacy, Research and Clinical Service</a></li></ul><p> <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, listed for:</p><ul><li> <a href="https://pubs.asha.org/doi/10.1044/2019_JSLHR-19-00162" target="_blank">Early Speech and Language Development in Children with Nonsyndromic Cleft Lip and/or Palate: A Meta-Analysis</a></li></ul><p>American Speech-Language-Hearing Association is a national professional organization for audiologists, speech-language pathologists and hearing, speech and language researchers and students. </p><p>For more information on the top articles of 2020, <a href="https://academy.pubs.asha.org/2021/01/in-case-you-missed-it-our-top-articles-of-2020/" target="_blank">please click here. </a> </p>
Donation Helps Boys Town National Research Hospital in Eye Tracking/Listening Research Projecthttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/eye-tracking-listening-research-project-donationDonation Helps Boys Town National Research Hospital in Eye Tracking/Listening Research Project2021-01-19T06:00:00Z<p>You may have noticed that it is hard to understand what someone is saying when they are wearing a face mask. That's because in face-to-face conversations, seeing a speaker's mouth move usually helps us understand them, especially in noisy places. Understanding speech in background noise is much more challenging for children than adults, and there is variability in children's ability to use visual speech cues, in other words, lipreading.</p><p>That's why a donation to purchase a Tobii Pro Nano eye tracker to support research on the subject was so appreciated by <a href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/faculty/kaylah-lalonde">Kaylah Lalonde, Director of the Audiovisual Speech Processing Laboratory</a> at Boys Town National Research Hospital. </p><p>Lalonde received the donation from an anonymous Boys Town donor about a year ago with the assistance of Boys Town development. The tracker, along with software that has been developed, will assist in planned studies that examine how much children and adults look at a speaker's face while listening to speech in noisy environments and to what parts of the face they look. Lalonde said this will help understand children's listening strategies.</p><p>The long-term goals of research in the audiovisual speech perception lab are to provide a unified account of how audiovisual speech perception develops, and ultimately to improve audiovisual communication outcomes for children with hearing loss. Lalonde said children with hearing loss benefit more from visual speech cues than children with normal hearing.</p><p>The eye tracker will be used to explore how much age- and hearing-related differences in audiovisual benefit observed in speech perception studies might be due to differences in looking behavior.</p><p>“Specifically, we will conduct standard auditory and audiovisual speech recognition tests while collecting data about whether and where participants look at or on the screen," Lalonde said. “The study will look at a variety of different age and hearing groups. With eye tracking data, we will determine the extent to which differences in looking behaviors among children explain individual, age-related and hearing-related differences in audiovisual benefit."</p><p>The eye tracker will serve as a control in future experiments in the lab. It will also serve as a tool for testing young children and infants without requiring overt responses. In future research, it will be used for more detailed studies of visual attention during audiovisual speech perception.</p><p>Lalonde said thanks to donations like this, Boys Town Hospital is able to continue its advances in studying how children tie together hearing with visual cues.</p><p>“Donations like this are important to Boys Town, because they allow us to be innovative in our research approach and support our goal of improving outcomes for children with communication difficulties," she said.</p>
Project INCLUDE Introduces Remote Testing Kits Due to Pandemic Constraintshttps://www.boystownhospital.org/news/remote-testing-kits-research-data-collectionProject INCLUDE Introduces Remote Testing Kits Due to Pandemic Constraints2021-01-14T06:00:00Z<p>Boys Town National Research Hospital® was in the middle of research for <a href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/hearing-speech-perception/human-auditory-development/participate/project-include-study">Project INCLUDE</a>, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), when the pandemic upended how many things were being done nationally, locally and at Boys Town.  </p><p>Project INCLUDE measures language, problem solving and hearing abilities in background noise for children with Down syndrome to identify factors that contribute to successful listening in noisy situations – like classrooms. Because Project INCLUDE is conducting research with children who have Down syndrome, many of whom are medically fragile, project leader <a href="https://www.boystownhospital.org/research/hearing-speech-perception/human-auditory-development/team">Heather Porter, Ph.D.</a>, knew they had to find alternatives to in-person research methods.</p><p>“Right in the middle of our Project INCLUDE research, the pandemic hit, and we had to switch to remote testing to protect our participants and lab staff," said Dr. Porter Research Scientist in the Human Auditory Development Lab.</p><p>The first remote project tried sending a program over the internet for test participants to download and use on their personal computer using whatever headphones they had at home. However, this system proved to be unreliable. Some participants had results that were very different from other participants. Although it was most likely because of the various types of computer hardware being used across the test population, the results couldn't fully be explained and alternative solutions were developed.</p><p>“We developed test kits that included all of the hardware and software needed for the study," said Dr. Porter.  “These kits are being delivered contact-free to each individual's home. The kits include an iPad, two sets of headphones and an instruction binder, plus sanitizing and screen wipes. Lab staff and participants have their safety concerns met. As a bonus, participants can complete the study at their convenience in their own homes. The response has been super positive."</p><p>Once the remote test kits were up and running, it was simply a matter of dropping them off, picking them up, sanitizing them thoroughly and repeating the process. Most importantly, it meant that Project INCLUDE could proceed safely for both participants and researchers.</p><h2>Advancements in Adversity</h2><p>The changes the pandemic instituted are only the beginning for Boys Town Hospital researchers. The challenges of 2020 have pushed forward new ways of doing things, research included, that may have positive impacts in the future.</p><p>“There's always been a push from the NIH to have larger groups of participants included in Down syndrome research, but it can be difficult because there are only so many participants available locally," Dr. Porter said. “Remote test kits have the potential to help us exponentially, allowing us to collect data from all over the country." </p><p>Families of children with Down syndrome are also being interviewed using secure web-based platforms to find out what about listening and communication is most important to them. That information will be included in Boys Town National Research Hospital's next grant submission to the NIH, along with the possibility of expanded research cohorts created by working remotely and conducting research nationwide.</p><p>Additionally, Boys Town Hospital is looking into various remote test kit configurations to further the ability of all research areas to continue conducting remote research during the pandemic and beyond. </p>

​​

View All News