The STEPP LAB for Sensorimotor Rehabilitation Engineering uses engineering approaches to study sensorimotor disorders of voice and speech. Our goal is to better understand, rehabilitate, and augment disordered communication. This work is highly interdisciplinary, engaging engineers, computer scientists, neuroscientists, speech scientists, speech-language pathologists, and laryngologists. In the field of speech-language pathology, our work intersects with voice disorders, motor speech disorders, and augmentative & alternative communication (AAC). We also work in the fields of speech science, speech motor control, and human-computer interaction.
Our work has been and currently is supported by:
The National Institutes of Health:
- Project 2 (“Sensorimotor mechanisms of vocal hyperfunction”) of Grant P50DC015446 (“Clinical Research Centerfor the Improved Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Vocal Hyperfunction”) from the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders, in collaboration with the Massachusetts General Hospital (Center Grant PI Robert Hillman)
- Grant T32DC013017 (“Advanced research training in communication sciences and disorders”) traineeship to Victoria McKenna (Grant PI Christopher Moore) from the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders
- Grant R01DC015570 (“An acoustic estimate of laryngeal tension for clinical assessment of voice disorders”) from the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders
- Grant F31DC014872 (“Optimization and prediction for fast and robust AAC”) to Meredith Cler from the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders
- The Boston University Clinical and Translational Science Institute, funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) through UL1TR000157
- A Boston University Clinical and Translational Science Institute K-L2 Fellowship through grant KL2TR000158 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS)
- Grant R03DC012651 (“Automation of Relative Fundamental Frequency Estimation”) from the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders
- A sub-contract from Grant R42DC011212 (“Development of an Electromyographically Controlled Electrolarynx Voice Prosthesis”) from the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders
- A Boston Rehabilitation Outcomes Measurement Center Pilot Grant
The National Science Foundation:
- Grant 1510563 (“Prosodic Control of Speech Synthesis for Assistive Communication in Severe Paralysis”) from the National Science Foundation
- CAREER grant 1452169 (“Enabling Enhanced Communication through Human-Machine-Interfaces”) from the National Science Foundation
- A New Century Doctoral Scholarship from The American Speech-Language Hearing Association to Liz Heller Murray
- A grant on “Videogame-Based Speech Rehabilitation for Children with Hearing Loss” from the Deborah Munroe Noonan Memorial Research Fund
- A New Investigators Research Grant and a New Century Scholars Research Grant from The American Speech-Language Hearing Association
- The Dudley A. Sargent Research Fund to Victoria McKenna
- The Boston University Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program
- The Dudley A. Sargent Research Fund to Liz Heller Murray
- Boston University’s Peter Paul Professorship
- A grant on “Undergraduate Research on the Effects of Modality on Sensory-Motor Learning” from Boston University Grants for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarship Program
Other generous external funding:
- Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CAPCSD) PhD Scholarship to Liz Heller Murray
- A Dysphagia Research Grant from The American Laryngological Association and the Nestle Nutrition Institute
- Private donors (e.g., our crowdfunding project for NinjaGame)
Acoustic Correlates of Normal and Disordered Speech Function:
We have a long-term interest in understanding the relationship between acoustic parameters and the physiology of speech and voice. We measure kinematics (measured via electromagnetography, respiratory plethysmography), aerodynamics, sensory acuity, and surface electromyography in a variety of disorders (Parkinson’s disease, velopharyngeal dysfunction, voice disorder) in concert with acoustics and estimates of listener perception to develop objective measures of voice and speech to aid clinical diagnosis and repeated assessment.
Videogaming for Rehabilitation:
Striatal dopamine release during video game play may facilitate brain plasticity following perceptual learning. By combining video game environments with timely and accurate sensory feedback, we may be able to effect faster and more widespread learning during motor rehabilitation. Although videogaming techniques for rehabilitation have been applied to the upper limb with success, there are many disorders of the voice, speech, and swallowing system that may be amenable to this technique. Our work in this area is to develop and test novel videogame-based interventions for these disorders in order to improve the quality of life in individuals with sensorimotor disorders.
Novel Neurotechnology for Speech Assistance and Rehabilitation:
Rehabilitation of communication through novel human-machine-interfaces is the “next frontier” in neural technology. A multidisciplinary understanding of the neural dynamics during speech production and real-time signal processing techniques is essential for the advancement of these technologies. The long-term research agenda of our lab is to bridge speech science with engineering to design new approaches to advance speech human-machine-interfaces to a reliable and intuitive state for populations that are currently severely restricted in their ability to communicate.