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 the cognitive factors that contribute to successful communicative interactions, including social cognition and executive functions. My laboratory, the Social Communication Assessment and Intervention Lab (SoCIALab) focuses on developing innovative assessments and treatments for social communication disorders, especially in individuals with autism spectrum disorder or traumatic brain injury.
Analyzing discourse-level language in healthy adults and those with communication disorders, including traumatic brain injury, aphasia, Parkinson’s disease, and autism spectrum disorder.
Developing new discourse-level assessments and analyses to examine social communication in individuals with social communication disorders.
Talk Bank: Collecting and analyzing diagnostic language, cognitive and emotion measures along with discourse-level language in those with neurogenic communication disorders in collaboration with the TalkBank, AphasiaBank, and TBIBank endeavors at Carnegie Mellon University.
Statistical/Implicit Learning in the brain: Defining the brain systems associated with statistical or implicit learning of hierarchical patterned sequences (e.g., artificial grammar) and determining their roles in acquisition and mastery of new skills in individuals with neurogenic communication disorders.
- Language and Brain Systems in Aphasia: Using network-based approaches to brain mapping to identify networks that are necessary or sufficient to specific language processes in aphasia.
- Cognitive Control in Traumatic Brain Injury: Identifying how symptoms that are measured at the behavioral level (fatigue, disinhibition, etc.) associate with within- or between-network characteristics of cognitive control networks.
- UNH Concussion Project: Collecting data on the cognitive and emotional issues associated with fatigue and sense effort in individuals with mild traumatic brain injury.
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.