Seminar Series

The HESP Department sponsors a series of talks on current research in the areas of hearing, speech, and language by visiting researchers or members of the HESP faculty. All students, faculty, staff, and affiliates are welcome and encouraged to attend. If you would like to join the email distribution list for all upcoming HESP Seminar Series talks, email Dr. Matt Goupell at

Certification Maintenance Hours can be earned by attending these talks.

Spring 2017 Schedule 

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MA SLP StudentsUMDMA Student Data BlitzCome hear about what our MA in SLP students have been working on! LeFrak 2208



AuD StudentsUMDAuD Capstone Research DayCome learn about the capstone research projects our audiology students have been working on!Patterson 2124



Allison JohnsonUMDPhD Candidacy Defense: "RoBURSTness: Quantifying Robustness of the /t/-/k/ Contrast in Children and Adults" Children develop speech gradually throughout childhood, and they continue to refine articulatory movements and phonological knowledge even after they have produced a sound or sound contrast. In research and clinical practice, speech is most often characterized using coarse-grained transcription methods; however, broad phonemic classifications or simple judgments of correct/incorrect fail to capture variations in productions. Measurable sub-phonemic differences in children’s speech, such as covert contrasts, undifferentiated lingual gestures, or intermediate productions, are difficult to classify using only transcription, but they have been quantified using fine-grained acoustic or perceptual measures. These subtle differences have important clinical implications in diagnosing speech sound disorders, developing focused treatment approaches, and determining prognosis for therapy.

Many studies in phonetics have searched for acoustic correlates to characterize speech sounds or phonetic dimensions. The present study directly compared two gradient-scale measures—an acoustic measure (Centroid) and a psychoacoustic measure (Peak ERB)—in their utility for quantifying robustness of the /t/—/k/ contrast in adults (n = 21) and 2-3-year-old children (n = 163). For adults, both measures were highly successful in differentiating /t/ and /k/, but Centroid was significantly better than Peak ERB for classifying productions in back-vowel contexts. Similar results were found for the children. There was also an interaction effect of target consonant in front-vowel contexts: Centroid better differentiated /t/ and /k/ when the target consonant was /t/, but Peak ERB better differentiated /t/ and /k/ when the target consonant was /k/.

Overall, children showed a less robust contrast compared to adults, even for productions transcribed as correct. These findings provide further evidence that children acquire speech gradually and continue to refine productions even after sounds are considered acquired. For children’s productions that were transcribed as correct, the wide range in robustness of contrast highlights the importance of supplementing transcription with fine-grained measurements to capture developmentally relevant sub-phonemic differences in children’s speech. Limitations of the study and future directions are discussed.
LeFrak 0135


Nora LeonardUMDHESP Honors DefenseMany factors contribute to effective language development. These include language experience (e.g., years of exposure, amount of input heard) as well as non-linguistic abilities, such as memory and cognitive control. This research focuses on one important non-linguistic factor: cognitive control, the ability to regulate and adjust behavior when necessary. Cognitive control plays an integral part in adult’s ability to revise misinterpretations of sentences, but young children often fail to revise. When 5-year-olds hear sentences like “Put the frog on the napkin on the box,” they often assume that the napkin is a possible destination (i.e., put it on the napkin), rather than a description of the frog (i.e., it’s currently on a napkin). This shows that children build syntactic structures on a moment-by-moment basis (e.g., “Put” demands a location and “the napkin” is the first goal to satisfy this), but they fail to revise misinterpretation after they encounter additional linguistic information (e.g., “…on the box.”). Previous research implicates a causational relationship between cognitive control engagement and sentence interpretation. In these studies, a kid version of the Stroop task occurred before a sentence interpretation task. Results showed children had the most difficulty revising their initial misinterpretation when an incongruent Stroop trial preceded an ambiguous sentence trial, indicating a kind of depletion effect. The present study replaced the cognitive control element with a working memory task to see whether the depletion effect was driven by cognitive control engagement or task difficulty. Thirty-one 4-to-5-year-olds were run in this study. Results showed children had a similar ability to revise ambiguous sentences when they were preceded by either high or low difficulty memory trials. These results suggest the working memory task did not affect their ability to revise in the sentence comprehension task to the same extent seen in the previous study with cognitive control engagement. LeFrak 2208


Brittany JaekelUMDPhD Candidacy Defense: "Age effects on perceptual restoration of degraded interrupted sentences"Adult cochlear-implant (CI) users show small or non-existent perceptual restoration effects when listening to interrupted speech. Perceptual restoration is believed to be a top-down mechanism that enhances speech perception in adverse listening conditions, and appears to be particularly utilized by older normal-hearing (NH) listeners. How aging and degraded speech (as would be presented through a CI speech processor) interact in the context of perceptual restoration, and whether older listeners can derive any restoration benefits from degraded speech, is the focus of this study. The present study tested two groups of NH listeners (younger: <35 years; older: ≥60 years) for perceptual restoration effects using interrupted sentences. Perceptual restoration was measured as the improvement in speech understanding with noise burst interruptions compared to silent-gap interruptions. Speech signal degradations were controlled by manipulating parameters of a noise vocoder and were used to analyze effects of spectral resolution and noise burst spectral content on perceptual restoration. Creating starker perceptual differences between speech and interrupting noise through increased spectral resolution and spectral content of noise bursts may be necessary for the effect to occur. Individual variability in perceptual restoration and possible mechanisms for the effect were explored using results from cognitive and language measures.LeFrak 0135


Seminar Series Archive: 

To see a list of previous HESP Seminars click here.


Certification Maintenance Hours:

Those who attend these seminars will be awarded Certification Maintenance Hours (CMHs). A CMH is 60 minutes of time spent as a learner and participant in a non-ASHA CEU professional development activity. CMHs are different from ASHA-approved CEUs, which are also offered through the department. ASHA permits the use of CMHs for the purpose of maintaining your CCCs. However, you are responsible for maintaining documentation verifying completion of each activity. Documentation will not be maintained on the ASHA CE Registry. For additional information about CMHs and ASHA certification requirements, please click here. Please be aware that state regulatory agencies and boards of education might not recognize or accept CMHs.

Extracting meaning from auditory signals: A look at how children process variation in language