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Fundamental Research

We investigate the psychological and neurological foundations of human communication. When people communicate through speech, music, or gesture, their brains must process a vast amount of sensory information. A primary goal of our research is to understand the neural mechanisms involved in processing the multisensory information that results from producing and perceiving verbal and nonverbal communication.

We conduct a wide range of studies on speech communication, singing, musicianship, and decision making. We study both healthy individuals as well as individuals who are challenged by communication disorders caused by Parkinson's disease, autism spectrum disorder, and schizophrenia.

It is hoped that a more thorough understanding of these processes will have implications for the remediation of certain communication disorders and have an impact on the design of communication technologies.


Computers are involved in countless aspects of people’s lives. Engineers are designing speech-based computer interfaces as an alternative to interfaces that require visually-guided manipulation. It is thought that these speech-based interfaces will provide safer access to devices while driving, flying or performing other tasks that require a high degree of visual attention.

However, recent research highlights the need for caution. For example, studies show that even hands-free cellular phone conversation has a detrimental effect on driving performance. Drivers who are talking on a cell phone reduce their visual scanning of the surrounding scene. Increased reaction times to important traffic events are also observed even when the cellular phones used are hands-free.

We are currently investigating ways that we can predict cognitive load using measures of brain activity. Our research will provide information relevant to the design of more ‘intelligent’ systems and provide guidelines for the use of in-vehicle communication devices.

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