Undergraduate students majoring in communication sciences and disorders are afforded numerous opportunities to participate in research. Those in the Honors in Major program write a senior honors thesis, which is an original piece of theoretical or applied research conducted under the supervision of an appointed faculty advisor. Examples of recent projects include: a critical analysis of children’s literature as a means of facilitating language development; the development of an original articulation test for native speakers of a Spanish dialect, and a critical review of the literature on the acquisition of linguistic humor.
At the graduate level, students selecting the thesis option will conduct original research leading to a publishable product. Students develop and implement their thesis projects under the guidance and supervision of a committee of faculty members headed by a committee chair. Examples of recent projects include a study of the effects of shared book reading on early lexical acquisition, a study of enhanced natural gestures as a communication strategy for children with Angelman Syndrome, and a study of the efficacy of intoned speech as a treatment methodology in long-term aphasia.
In addition to thesis research, graduate students may have the opportunity to collaborate on faculty research projects in their interest areas.
How do children acquire language? What do they sound like as they first begin to speak? My research focuses on the perception and production of prosody (i.e., the melody and rhythm of speech) at different stages in development and how these processes impact successful communication.
The goal of my work is to provide a better understanding of how the complex interaction between prosody and meaning develops over infancy and early childhood in both typical and atypical populations. Most recently, I have studied these differences in children with autism spectrum disorder who show impairments in social communication.
Learn more about Dr. Thorson's CAT Lab
My research focuses on social communication, or the use of language and nonverbal communication, in social interactions. The goal of my work is to improve our understanding of social communication and its development and association with aspects of quality of life, such as communicative participation and friendship quality, and the ways we assess and treat social communication disorders, particularly in children with autism spectrum disorder.
My research interests center on the neurologic bases of cognition and emotion as they interact with communication competence. Specifically, I study memory, attention and language primarily in acquired neurogenic communication disorders, following traumatic brain injury and stroke. My research utilizes neuroimaging data to characterize brain systems that are aberrant in a patient population to identify variables that contribute to the dysfunction of these brain systems, and to understand and optimize the mechanisms of action of treatments.
Treatment to Reduce Head Impacts in Youth Football: Neural and Cognitive Effects (in collaboration with Dr. Robin and the Kinesiology Department): Collecting head impact data; post-season focus group interviews with parents, coaches, and players; conducting fMRI and structural MRI on selected players.
AphasiaBank: Expert analyses of apraxia of speech
UNH Concussion Project: Collecting data on the cognitive and emotional issues associated with fatigue and sense effort in individuals with mild traumatic brain injury.
My laboratory uses non-invasive brain imaging (MRI) to study the neural bases of speech and speech disorders, motor control and learning, music and the brain, and mindfulness. Much of the work focuses on developing treatments and testing their efficacy as well as treatment-induced neuroplasticity, using MRI.
Apraxia of speech: Testing the efficacy of a treatment I developed for children and adults. Examining the neural bases in children as well as adults who have had a stroke.
Motor Learning: Examining feedback-based learning to control one's voice and its application to voice disorders associated with neurological disorders. Meta-analysis of motor learning and its application to speech
Mindfulness: Developing a mindfulness treatment program for stress, chronic pain, opioid misuse and communication disorders, which will incorporate brain stimulation methods.
Musical Improvisation and Neuroscience: Examining effects of improvisation and learning to improvise on cognitive, language, and emotional processing in health and disease.