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Dr. Allen R. Braun

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Chief, Language Section
Voice, Speech and Language Branch, NIDCD

Building 10, Room 5D-37
10 Center Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892
Telephone: (301) 402-1497 (office)
Fax: (301) 451-5353

Research Statement

The mission of the Language Section is to understand how language is instantiated in the brain, how brain-language relationships are interrupted by disorders that affect the ability to communicate, and how these disorders can be treated. We use a combination of imaging modalities—hemodynamic methods (PET and fMRI) complemented by electrophysiological (EEG/ERP and magnetoencephalography) and PET radiochemical tracer techniques—to this end.

We investigate both language production and comprehension, since disorders affecting speech and language typically have a significant impact on both, and how the brain processes language cannot be completely understood by studying either in isolation. We study language at multiple levels, from its elementary perceptual and motor features, to higher-level linguistic processing. But we are particularly interested in more complex, real-world language use because this ecologically valid condition is often the only context in which symptoms of many language disorders present.

Imaging paradigms developed in control subjects constitute the tools with which we study neurological disorders that affect speech, voice and language. These include deafness and central auditory processing impairments as well as Parkinson¹s disease and developmental stuttering, disorders that reflect pathology at the borderland between motor and cognitive-linguistic function.

Multimodal imaging of functional recovery in post-stroke aphasia has become a central focus of activity in our Section. We use multiple modalities to identify the central correlates of neuroplastic reorganization and repair in aphasic patients; these studies are complemented by the use of a rodent stroke model in which MRI, electrophysiological and neurochemical investigations help us to interpret the results obtained in humans, and to design effective therapeutic interventions.

Members of our Section are also interested in music processing (particularly the relationships between music and language in the brain), and in sleep (the effect of sleep deprivation on language performance as well as the neural architecture of sleep itself).

Research positions are generally available. The Language Section is a cooperative environment in which there is an opportunity to interact with postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and technicians with a wide range of interests and skills.

Figure 1
Figure 1: fMRI is used to capture simultaneous activity in the brains of two interlocutors engaged in conversation. The panel on the left illustrates the experimental set up, showing how time-locked functional images, text-based information and acoustic data are acquired in both speakers. The panel on the right illustrates significant interbrain coherence - regional networks that are simultaneously active and functionally coupled in the brains of both speakers as they converse.
Figure 2
Figure 2: Brain maps illustrating increasing activity and functional connectivity of perisylvian and extrasylvian areas in both hemispheres as subjects read words, sentences and narratives. These emergent, context-dependent effects are demonstrated using both fMRI and EEG coherence methods.

Lab Personnel

Mrs. Nuria Abdulsabur, Predoctoral Fellow (Send email)
Miss. Jessica Carson, Post-Baccalaureate Fellow (Send email)
Dr. Ho Ming Chow, Postdoctoral Fellow (Send email)
Dr. Sukru Demiral, Postdoctoral Fellow (Send email)
Dr. Siyuan Liu, Postdoctoral Fellow (Send email)
Dr. Yisheng Xu, Postdoctoral Fellow (Send email)

Selected Publications