Learning how brains process speech

Although our ears are important for hearing, it is our brain that makes sense of what we hear. How our brains process speech is a central theme in the research of Jonathan Peelle, PhD. In research supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Peelle Lab uses behavioral testing and brain imaging to study how our brains understand spoken language.

Typical studies involve listening to words or sentences while brain activity is measured, along with hearing and cognitive testing. These studies help evaluate if some people need to work harder than others to understand speech in noise.

Jonathan Peelle, PhD

Recently, a new line of research has been added to the Peelle Lab, thanks to new funding from the NIH. The new grant supports testing of participants from the Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) at Washington University. Participants in the study will be given free hearing screenings as part of the research protocol, along with counseling regarding their hearing from an audiologist. Researchers will then be able to relate measures of hearing and speech perception to existing measures of cognitive performance and brain health provided by the ADRC.

By better understanding how cognitive processing contributes to speech understanding, Dr. Peelle hopes to help increase our understanding of why some people have more trouble than others understanding speech in noisy backgrounds.