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NeuroLab at Keene State College

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The Psychology Department’s NeuroLab in Rhodes Hall provides students with research opportunities in the areas of clinical behavioral science, neurodevelopmental disorders, and neuroscience. It allows ongoing research projects in language and Autism, clinical behavior therapy, and neuropsychology. Students observe and participate in clinical interventions and assist in collection of scientific data.

Faculty

Lawrence Welkowitz, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology
Karen Jennings, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology

Current Projects

NH-INBRE Three-Year Study of iPad-assisted Speech Training for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

The purpose of this federally funded study is twofold:

  1. To assess the effectiveness of an iPad/computerized based approach to language prosody training in individuals with Autism and
  2. Assess transfer of training of iPad/computerized language training to “real world” social situations.

The current study focuses on use of an iPad-assisted language-feedback program (“Speechmatch”) designed to improve emotional expression or prosody in conversation. In addition, the neural basis of emotional prosody dysfunction in ASD will be explored through social comprehension and social attention subtests of a neuropsychological test. The benefits of this study include possible improvement in social conversational skills for individuals with autism. Ultimately this type of intervention might become part of a more comprehensive behavioral program for improving social effectiveness in Autism and related problems.

We are recruiting 13–18 year olds in the Keene, NH, area with diagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). After a diagnosis of ASD is confirmed, participants will undergo preliminary tests (a diagnostic test, a behavioral test, and a neuropsychological test).

All participants will then receive 20 hours across 10 days of intensive “Speechmatch” training (an iPad-application-based language program) designed to improve their ability to use their voice to “match” the visual soundwave patterns associated with various emotions (e.g., happy, sad). The behavioral test and the neuropsychological test will be repeated upon completion of the iPad-assisted training program.  The “Speechmatch” program collects data on degree of match of volume, pitch, rhythm, and overall match of soundwaves. All tests will be repeated at two-month follow-ups to assess maintenance of treatment gains. For more information, email Lawrence Welkowitz, PhD .

Ongoing Brain-Imaging Studies

These brain-imaging studies (fMRI) are done in collaboration with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center to examine neural-attentional networks involved in the processing of speech and emotion among children and adults with ASD. Individuals undergo a battery of tests and complete Speechmatch tasks (described above) while undergoing a 1–2 hour scanning (fMRI) procedure.  Ultimately we are interested in discovering changes in brain functioning that occur after intensive conversational skills training. All neuropsychological tests are supervised by Karen Jennings, Ph.D., at Keene State College.