To Understand Bilingual Clients' Speech Perception, First Consider Their Attitudes
To fully understand bilingual clients' perception of English speech, hearing professionals should consider their attitudes about language in addition to language background, according to a study published in the December 2012 issue of the American Journal of Audiology.
Hypothesizing that linguistic variables alone cannot fully
account for bilingual listeners' perception of English running speech, the authors investigated how the combination of linguistic factors and attitude affect bilingual processing of temporally degraded English passages.
Thirty-six bilinguals participated in the study. Bilingual
people completed questionnaires to assess their language backgrounds,
willingness to communicate, and self-perceived communication competency in
English. Participants listened to English passage pairs from the Connected
Speech Test, presented at 45 dB HL at three rates—unprocessed, expanded,
compressed—in quiet and in noise.
The most significant linguistic variables were language
proficiency measures, accounting for the largest amount of variance in
performance across most conditions. Willingness to communicate and self-perceived
communication competency both were associated with performance and contributed
to regression models. Performance in noise was more difficult to predict than
Greater Understanding of Families' Language Use Leads to Better Support
Communication between parents and children is a complex
matter, unique to each family. So practitioners need to be better informed
about intergenerational language practices in minority-language families, says
a study in the February 2013 issue of the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. Parents need practitioners' support to make language-use decisions that are self-enhancing and congruent with their family's needs.
The author investigated the language practices of 10
bilingual, Chinese/English-speaking, immigrant mothers with their children with
autism spectrum disorders. Her aim was to understand the nature of the language
practices, their constraints and their impact. She used in-depth
phenomenological interviews with thematic and narrative analyses to yield
Interviewees reported that they adopted the language
practices they perceived to be most advantageous for acquiring services and
maintaining wellness. They valued Chinese language, but did not pursue its use
if they thought it would hinder the children's overall English acquisition. All the mothers believed bilingualism made learning more challenging, and many believed it caused confusion or exacerbated disabilities. Their deficit views of bilingualism commonly were reinforced by professionals. All the mothers were motivated to help their children learn English, but had no assistance to do so. Practices were sustainable only when they were aligned with families' preferred communication patterns.
Do Sentence Length and Syntactic Complexity Influence Speech
Some children who stutter exhibit more variable speech motor
coordination during fluent speech production than typically developing
children, according to a study in the February 2013 issue of the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Sentence
length and complexity did not disproportionately affect the coordination
variability and duration of children who stutter, but the authors observed
considerable individual differences in performance.
To investigate the potential effects of increased sentence
length and syntactic complexity on the speech motor control of children who
stutter, researchers had participants repeat sentences of varied length and syntactic
complexity. Then they analyzed kinematic measures of articulatory coordination
variability and movement duration during perceptually fluent speech for 16
children who stutter and 16 typically developing children ages 4–6. The authors
also examined behavioral data from a larger pool of children.
For both groups, articulatory coordination variability
increased with sentence length, and movement duration was greater for
syntactically complex—as opposed to simple—sentences. For sentences with simple
syntax, the children who stuttered had higher coordination variability than
typically developing peers. There was no group difference in coordination
variability for complex sentences. But coordination variability increased
significantly with complexity for typically developing children, whereas that
of children who stutter remained at the high level they also demonstrated for
simple sentences. Overall, the children who stuttered tended toward higher
coordination variability compared with the typically developing children.
Target Natural and AAC Speech Simultaneously to Reach Goals
Simultaneously targeting natural speech and augmentative and
alternative communication speech—using a novel, integrated multimodal
approach—was linked to positive changes in both communication and speech
production goals for three children.
The findings, published in the April 2013 issue of Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools,
suggest that integrating multimodal speech-generating AAC with traditional
speech intervention can be effective in supporting children's natural speech production.
The study introduces Integrated Multimodal Intervention—an
activity-based intervention—and examines its effectiveness for treating
persistent and severe speech sound disorders in young children. The IMI focuses
simultaneously on increasing the quantity of a child's meaningful productions of target words and providing supports to shape the quality of natural speech productions of target sounds. This is achieved by systematically incorporating the full range of each child's communicative repertoire, including AAC systems and natural speech and language.
The authors used a multiple-probe single-subject research
design to assess the effectiveness of the IMI for three boys ages 4–8 with
moderate to severe speech sound disorders, all of whom used speech-generating
AAC. All three participants produced more speech than previously, with greater
production accuracy of their target speech sounds.
Scientists Find Tinnitus Cause, Preventive Drug
An epilepsy drug shows promise in an animal model at
preventing tinnitus from developing after exposure to loud noise, according to
a new study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
The findings, reported in the early online version of the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
reveal for the first time the reason the chronic and sometimes debilitating
Previous research revealed that tinnitus is associated with
hyperactivity of DCN cells—they fire impulses even when there is no actual
sound to perceive. For the new experiments, researchers took a close look at
the biophysical properties of tiny channels, called KCNQ channels, through
which potassium ions travel in and out of the cell, and which act as effective
"brakes" to reduce the activity of neuronal cells. Researchers believe a reduction in KCNQ activity leads to tinnitus.
After using noise to induce tinnitus in mice, researchers
tested whether an FDA-approved epilepsy drug called retigabine—which
specifically enhances KCNQ channel activity—could prevent them from developing
tinnitus. Thirty minutes into the noise exposure and twice daily for the next
five days, researchers injected half of the exposed group with retigabine.
The researchers found that the mice treated with retigabine
immediately after noise exposure did not develop tinnitus. Consistent with
previous studies, half of the noise-exposed mice that were not treated with the
drug exhibited behavioral signs of the condition.
Scientists Derive Mature Brain Cells From Skin
Using stem cells, scientists have devised a method to
generate neurons—mature brain cells—by reprogramming a patient's skin cells. The research, to be published in the September 2013 issue of Stem Cell Research, opens new, non-invasive avenues for brain
treatment. Researchers believe the method could lead to customized treatments
for patients based on their genetic and cellular information, and hope that
difficult-to-study diseases such as Alzheimer's, schizophrenia and autism now can be probed more safely and effectively.
The team found a way to differentiate unspecialized or
undifferentiated pluripotent stem cells into mature human neurons much more
effectively, generating cells that behave similarly to neurons in the brain. In
the brain, neurons are always found in proximity to star-shaped cells called
astrocytes, which are abundant in the brain and help neurons to function
properly. Scientists predicted that this direct physical contact might be an
integral part of neuronal growth and health.
To test this hypothesis, researchers cultured neural stem
cells, which are stem cells that have the potential to become neurons. These
cells were cultured on top of a one-cell-thick layer of astrocytes so that the
two cell types were physically touching each other. This direct contact seemed
to spur the cells into differentiating into neurons.
To demonstrate the superiority of the neurons grown next to
astrocytes, the team used an electrophysiology recording technique to show that
the cells grown on astrocytes had many more synaptic events—signals sent out
from one nerve cell to the others. In another experiment, after growing the
neural stem cells next to astrocytes for just one week, the newly
differentiated neurons started to fire action potentials—the rapid electrical
excitation signal that occurs in all neurons in the brain. In a final test, the
team members added human neural stem cells to a mixture with mouse neurons.
They found "cross-talk"—one neuron contacting its neighbors and releasing a neurotransmitter to modulate its neighbor's activity—between the mouse neurons and the human neurons.