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Explore Our Current Studies for Children and Adults

​​​​​For more than 40 years, Boys Town National Research Hospital has been translating research into premier clinical care. Our studies in neurological and behavioral health, hearing and language development are improving the care provided to children, adults and communities in Omaha and around the country.

Current studies are recruiting for all ages and include in-person and virtual opportunities. Participants will be compensated for their time.

Neurological Imaging and Neurobehavioral

  • Principal Investigator: Max Kurz, Ph.D.

    The purpose of this study is to see how successful gait therapy (physical therapy focused on improving walking) is for individuals with cerebral palsy. Results from the therapy may differ between individuals, so the study will also look at how the brain works in order to better understand those differences. Adults who do not have cerebral palsy will be used as a comparison group.

    • Who: Children and adults with and without cerebral palsy  
    • Age: 10-30 years 
    • Compensation: Participants without cerebral palsy: $50 per baseline assessment visit – baseline assessment total up to $150; Participants with cerebral palsy: $50 per baseline assessment visit – baseline assessment total up to $300 (if baseline assessment completed before and after gait therapy/outcome assessment)
    • Time:
      • Baseline assessment: 3 visits, 1.5 to 2 hours per visit 
      • Outcome (results) assessment (if applicable): 3 visits, 1.5 to 2 hours per visit 
      • Gait therapy: 3 sessions per week for 8 weeks, 45 minutes per session
    • Visit Type: In-person  
    • Location: Boys Town Campus 
    • Requirements: Participants with cerebral palsy cannot have had orthopedic surgery within the past six months, and they must have some ability to walk with or without assistance. Participants who do not have cerebral palsy cannot have other developmental conditions. 

    Contact: Max.Kurz@boystown.org; Sarah.Baker@boystown.org

  • Principal Investigator: Max Kurz, Ph.D.​

    The purpose of this study is to examine how adults with Down syndrome age. Participants will do simple visual and tactile tasks in a non-invasive magnetoencephalography (MEG) imaging instrument and undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan during which they can sleep or watch a movie. A neuropsychological assessment involving a few questions and games will be conducted with Down syndrome participants.

    • Who: Adults with and without Down syndrome
    • Age: 19-45 years
    • Compensation: $50 Amazon eGift Card, per visit
    • Time:
      • Adults without Down syndrome: 2 visits (1 MEG - 1.5 hours; 1 MRI - 1 hour)
      • Adults with Down syndrome: 3 visits (1 MEG - 1.5 hours; 1 MRI - 1 hour; 1 Neuropsychological assessment - 1.5 hours)
    • Visit Type: In-person
    • Location: Boys Town Campus
    • Requirements: Participants cannot have an additional neurological/psychological diagnosis, such as dementia. No metal components in the head or mouth (braces, permanent retainers, etc.).

    Contact: Max.Kurz@boystown.org; Hannah.Bergwell@boystown.org

  • Principal Investigator: Tony Wilson, Ph.D.

    The purpose of this study is to understand how the healthy brain matures and how hormones influence this development. As children mature into adolescence and adulthood, both their brains and cognitive abilities change dramatically. This study aims to identify those changes using non-invasive brain scans, neuropsychological and cognitive assessments, and saliva samples. Participants will receive a printed picture of their brain.

    Study details

    • Who:  Healthy Children
    • Age: 6-8 years; 11-13 years  
    • Compensation: Yes, Contact Michaela Frenzel for more information. 
    • Time: 2.5 to 3 hours per visit (Two visits per year for five years.)  
    • Visit Type: In-person 
    • Location: Institute for Human Neuroscience - Boys Town Campus
    • Requirements: Children who are willing to participate every year for five years and have never been diagnosed with a psychiatric or neurological disorder.

    Contact: 531-355-8919; Michaela.Frenzel@boystown.org

  • Principal Investigator: Tony Wilson, Ph.D.

    The purpose of this study is to measure the effects of aging on brain activity and to use a therapeutic technique called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Participants will have electrodes placed on their heads while completing a numbering ordering task, then they will undergo a non-invasive magnetoencephalography (MEG) scan while performing visual and attention tasks.   

    • Who: Right-handed adults
    • Age: 19-35 years; 55-72 years
    • Compensation: $80 per visit (3 visits)
    • Time: 2.5 hours per visit
    • Visit Type: In-person
    • Location: Institute for Human Neuroscience - Boys Town Campus
    • Requirements: Participants must be right-handed, with no history of substance abuse or dependence.

    Contact: 531-355-8920;
    Visit: https://diconlab.org/participate/

  • Principal Investigator: Tony Wilson, Ph.D.​

    The purpose of this study is to investigate how HIV affects brain activity, cognitive functioning and aging in people who have HIV as compared to those who do not. Non-invasive brain imaging instruments will be used, and participants will complete a variety of mental activities. 

    Study details

    • Who: Adults with HIV and Adults without HIV 
    • Age: 19-78 years 
    • Compensation: $75 per visit
    • Time: 3 hours per visit  (3 visits)
    • Visit Type: In-person 
    • Location: Institute for Human Neuroscience - Boys Town Campus
    • Requirements: Have not had a stroke or been diagnosed with any neurological or psychiatric disorders; Able to complete a series of mental tasks; Are not pregnant.

    Contact: 531-355-8913; Rebecca.Losh@boystown.org
    Visit: https://diconlab.org/participate/

  • Principal Investigator: Tony Wilson, Ph.D.​

    The purpose of this study is to investigate how chronic cannabis use affects brain activity and cognitive functioning differently in people who are living with HIV compared to those who are not living with HIV. Non-invasive brain imaging instruments will be used, and participants will complete a variety of mental activities.

    Study details

    • Who: Adults who Regularly use Cannabis
    • Age: 19-60 years
    • Compensation: $75 per visit
    • Time: 3 hours per visit  (3 visits)
    • Visit Type: In-person
    • Location: Institute for Human Neuroscience - Boys Town Campus
    • Requirements: Have not had a stroke or been diagnosed with any neurological or psychiatric disorders; Are able to complete a series of mental tasks; Are not pregnant; Regularly use cannabis.

    Contact: 531-355-8913; Rebecca.Losh@boystown.org; Hannah.Okelberry@boystown.org

  • Principal Investigator: Stuart White, Ph.D.​

    The purpose of this study is to examine how testosterone, a pubertal hormone found in boys and girls, alters how the brain regulates emotions in children who have experienced a traumatic event. Participants will answer questions, provide saliva samples, complete computer tasks and undergo an MRI brain scan.

    Study details

    • Who: Teens struggling with PTSD
    • Age: 14-17 years
    • Compensation: $15 per hour (assessment visit), $50 (MRI visit)
    • Time:
      • 1 to 1.5 hours (assessment)
      • 45-60 minute secondary assessment (youth with trauma only)
      • 1 to 1.5 hours (MRI) 
    • Visit Type: In-person
    • Location: Boys Town Campus
    • Requirements: Physically healthy teens struggling with PTSD symptoms, including behavioral and emotional problems, sleep troubles, jumpiness (startles easily) or uncomfortable in crowds. No intellectual disability, autism or metal in the body (cochlear implants, braces, permanent retainers, etc.). 

    Contact: 531-355-1249; dcn.lab@boystown.org

  • Primary Investigator: Stuart White, Ph.D.​​

    The purpose of this study is to examine how changes related to puberty, including hormonal changes, affect how the brain regulates emotions in healthy children as well as children who struggle with emotional and behavioral issues. Participants will answer questions, provide hair and saliva samples, complete computer tasks and undergo an MRI brain scan.

    Study details

    • Who: Preteens and teens with normal development or emotional and behavioral issues
    • Age: 9-18 years
    • Compensation: $30 (assessment visit), $50 (MRI visit)
    • Time:
      • 1 to 1.5 hours (assessment)
      • 1 to 1.5 hours (MRI) 
    • Visit Type: In-person
    • Location:  Boys Town Campus
    • Requirements: Participants, whether they have emotional and behavioral problems or not, must be physically healthy and have no intellectual disabilities, autism or metal in the body (cochlear implants, braces, permanent retainers, etc.).

    Contact: 531-355-1249; dcn.lab@boystown.org

Hearing

  • Principal Investigator: Adam Bosen, Ph.D.

    The purpose of this study is to identify the auditory and cognitive factors that determine speech understanding ability in individuals with cochlear implants. Participants will listen to speech in clear or degraded listening conditions and then repeat back what they hear. In addition, participants will complete a variety of cognitive and listening tasks to assess memory and hearing sensitivity.  

    • Who: Adults with cochlear implants or normal hearing  
    • Age:
      • 19-29 years (adults with normal hearing)  
      • 19-80 years (adults with cochlear implants who were deafened during adulthood) 
    • Compensation: $15 per hour (in-person), $15 Amazon eGift Card for each hour (virtual)  
    • Time: 1 to 3 hours per session  
    • Visit Type: Virtual and In-person
    • Requirements:  

    Contact: Adam.Bosen@boystown.org  

  • Principal Investigator: Gabrielle Merchant, Ph.D.

    The purpose of this study is to learn more about hearing in people who have had ear tubes placed in one or both ears multiple times. The study involves several tests that will measure hearing and how different parts of the ear are functioning.

    • Who: Individuals who have had ear tubes placed at least twice and do not have tubes at this time
    • Age: 5 years and up
    • Compensation: $15
    • Time: 1 hour
    • Visit Type: In-person
    • Location: Boys Town Medical Campus – Downtown
    • Requirements: Participants must have had ear tubes placed in one or both ears two or more times. They should not have ear tubes at this time.

    Contact: 531-355-5609
    Visit: https://tapphxtubes.timetap.com/

  • Principal Investigator: Ryan McCreery, Ph.D.

    The purpose of this study is to identify and understand what type of intervention can help children better understand in noisy environments, such as classrooms. Participants will be asked to repeat words and sentences in quiet and noisy situations and play memory and attention games. Hearing tests will be given to those who have not had one in the past six months.

    Study details

    • Who: Children with or without hearing loss
    • Age: 6-12 years
    • Compensation: $15 per hour (cash or Amazon gift card)
    • Time: 3 to 4 hours total (1 to 2 visits)
    • Visit Type: In-person
    • Location: Boys Town Medical Campus – Downtown
      Requirements: Children with hearing loss who have permanent mild to severe hearing loss in both ears (hearing aids not required), no diagnosis of cognitive delay and English as their primary language.

    Contact: 531-355-6533; apclab@boystown.org

  • Principal Investigator: Heather Porter, Ph.D.

    The goal of this study is to determine the relationship between auditory brainstem response (ABR) testing and traditional hearing tests for high frequency sounds. This study will help audiologists accurately diagnose and treat hearing loss in infants or others who cannot participate in traditional hearing tests. Participants will wear headphones and hear clicking sounds, but do not need to pay attention or respond. In fact, they will be asked to relax in a reclining chair and either watch Netflix or nap. Participants will also receive a traditional hearing test.

    • Who: Children and adults with hearing loss or normal hearing
    • Age: children 5-18 years, adults 19-60 years
    • Compensation: $15 per hour
    • Time: 1 2-hour visit or 2 60-minute visits
    • Visit Type: In-person
    • Location: Boys Town Medical Campus - Downtown
    • Requirements: Individuals with or without hearing loss. If participants have hearing loss, it cannot be hearing loss from ear infections.

    Contact: 531-355-6625; HADL@boystown.org

  • Principal Investigator: Elizabeth Heinrichs-Graham

    Purpose/Overview: The goals of this study are to understand how a child's brain works during attention, memory, and language tasks, and whether hearing loss affects how these processes occur in the brain.

    Tasks: Participants will complete noninvasive imaging with magnetoencephalography (MEG) during a series of cognitive and language tasks, MRI, neurobehavioral testing, and an audiogram.

    • Who: Children with and without hearing loss
    • Age: 7-15 years
    • Compensation: $50 per visit, $100 total
    • Time: 2 visits of 2-3 hours each
    • Visit Type: In-person
    • Location: Boys Town Campus
    • Requirements: Children with bilateral mild-to-severe hearing loss who wear hearing aids and children without hearing loss.

    Contact: 531-355-8937; CASI.Lab@boystown.org

  • Principal Investigator: Kaylah Lalonde, Ph.D.             

    The purpose of this study is to learn how children use visual cues on a talker's face (i.e., lip reading) to help understand speech in noisy backgrounds. Participants will complete vision, hearing and language tests.

    Study details

    • Who: Children and adults with typical development 
    • Age: 5-15 years; 19-29 years 
    • Compensation: $15 per hour 
    • Time: 1 to 4 hours, broken up into multiple sessions, as needed.
    • Visit Type: In-person 
    • Location: Boys Town Medical Campus - Downtown 
    • Requirements: Individuals must have normal hearing, normal vision (with or without glasses) and must have English as their first language.

    Contact: 531-355-6664; btnrh-avspeechlab@boystown.org

Language

  • Principal Investigator: Katherine Gordon, Ph.D.

    The purpose of this study is to identify teaching strategies that help children learn and remember school-based vocabulary. Guided by a researcher, participants will play word-learning games and through participation have the potential to add school-based words to their vocabulary.

    Study details

    • Who: Children with delayed language development  
    • Age: 4-6 years; 7-10 years 
    • Compensation: $10-15/hour, total up to $215-$220 (Amazon eGift Card)  
    • Time:
      • Qualification/eligibility visit: 1.5 hours
      • Two pre-training sessions: 30 minutes each 
      • Sixteen training visits: 15 minutes each 
      • Two post-test visits: 30 minutes each 
    • Visit Type: Virtual  
    • Requirements: Parental concern of lower language/vocabulary skills than same age peers or diagnosis of language delay/disorder; Normal hearing, no diagnosis of neurological conditions or intellectual disabilities. 

    Contact: 531-355-5006; Stephanie.Uglow@boystown.org

  • Principal Investigator: Anastasia Kerr-German, Ph.D.           

    The purpose of this study is to understand how toddlers and young children learn about the world around them, how they make decisions based on what they look at and how their brain processes that information.   

    • Who: Children with normal development or developmental concerns - normal hearing or using amplification 
    • Age: 2-5 years; 6-8 years 
    • Compensation: $25, toy, stickers and snacks (in-person), $25 Amazon eGift Card (virtual) 
    • Time: 
      • Ages 2-5 – 1 visit (1 hour)
      • Ages 6-8 – 2 visits (First Visit 1 hour, Second Visit approximately 45 minutes) 
    • Visit Type: In-person and Virtual
      • 2-5 age group: In-person 
      • 6-8 age group: One in-person visit and one virtual visit 
    • Location: Virtual and Boys Town Medical Campus – Downtown 
    • Requirements: For ages 2-5, typically developing with no diagnosis that would hinder understanding of instructions/tasks. For ages 6-8, no diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Tourette's or consistent seizures.    

    Contact: 531-355-5093; Bearlab@boystown.org

  • Principal Investigator: Erin Smolak, Ph.D.

    The purpose of this study is to gather information about the strategies children use to understand language and learn new words. Children will perform a variety of language and cognitive tasks as well as undergo hearing and vision screenings. A free comprehensive language assessment is included. 

    • Who: Young children
    • Age: 4-6 years
    • Compensation: $20 per hour
    • Time: 1 to 1.5 hours per visit, 1-3 visits
    • Visit Type: In-person
      Location: Boys Town Medical Campus - Downtown
    • Requirements: English-speaking children who do not have autism or an intellectual disability and are not deaf or hard of hearing.

    Contact: 531-355-5034; Erin.Smolak@boystown.org

  • Principal Investigator: Angela AuBuchon, Ph.D. 

    The purpose of this study is to understand the brain networks that help us pay attention to sound.  We often try to work or learn in noisy environments.  Noises that are distracting to children often do not bother adults, so we might not think to lower noises when children are around. Understanding how our brains respond to these noises across development will help adults make better decisions about when to lower background noises to help their children learn. 

    Participants will undergo brain imaging via fNIRS, a safe and noninvasive means of examining brain activity by measuring blood flow in the brain, and a battery of tasks in which participants will be asked to pay attention to and remember either spoken words and sentences, or videos.  

    • Who: English speaking young adults 
    • Age:  19-29 years 
    • Compensation:  $15 per hour 
    • Time:  Approximately 1 hour 
    • Visit Type:  In-person 
    • Location: Boys Town Medical Campus – Downtown
    • Requirements:  English-speaking adults
    • Sign Up:  Complete our online contact form

    Contact: 531-355-6380; Angela.AuBuchon@boystown.org


If you would like researchers to contact you when you are a good match for a research study, go to our Participate in Hearing and Communication Research page to be added to our research recruitment volunteer database. When you are contacted, the researcher will explain the study and you may decide if you want to participate.

Sign Up for Our Research Participant Databases

Free Online Hearing and Language Screenings (Ages 3-18)

Are you concerned about your child’s talking, listening, reading or writing skills?

Childhood language problems are common, but they often go unrecognized. Finding out about struggles with spoken language as early as possible is important. Additionally, good hearing is important in development of language skills. If your child is 3-18 years old and you have concerns, your child may benefit from a free online language and hearing screening with us.