News & Events

Current Events



SHBT Student Nicole Black Wins 1st Place in Inventors Competition and is Featured in Smithsonian Magazine


Nicole Black has won 1st Place in the judged portion of the Collegiate Inventors Competition in Washington, DC. Nicole and her collegue Michael Kreder participated as "Team PionEar" as one of six graduate teams competing in the event.  

The competition is hosted by the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Their invention, nicknamed "PionEar" is something that Nicole had been working on while under the SHBT minor program and in collaboration with Aaron Remenschneider and Elliott Kozin in the Eaton-Peabody Laboratories at Mass Eye and Ear.  Nicole states that her work on this project was inspired by the SHBT clinical class that she took, "Upon seeing the tympanosclerosis present in my own eardrum from the tympanostomy tubes I had as a child, I wanted to design tubes that could be smaller and less invasive."

Her pioneering work was also featured in Smithsonian Magazine:


More about the Team PionEar project can be found here:


More information about the competition can be found at: 



Neuroimaging study by SHBT faculty Eve Fedorenko


Neuroimaging study by SHBT faculty Eve Fedorenko ( published in the Journal of Neurophysiology features a photomontage of SHBT student Jeanne Gallée. The paper shows that brain areas involved in language comprehension are distinct from those involved in the observation and imitation of actions, including facial expressions. Jeanne helped to create the visual stimuli used in the experiments.



End of Summer Talks


The annual research presentations given by current G2s and G3s will take place on Thursday, September 27th beginning at 4 pm in the Meltzer Auditorium (located on the third floor of MEEI).


Coffee and snacks will be served, as well as dinner following the talks. 


For more information, please click here.



Highlighting Hyperpolyglots


Evelina FedorenkoTakao HenschSHBT Faculty Evelina Fedorenko (left) and Takao Hensch (right) have been featured in an article in The New Yorker.


Read full article in the New Yorker.





SHBT Inner Ear and Hearing Loss Research in the News


Janani IyerSHBT Ph.D. candidate Janani Iyer’s research on the inner ear and recent visit to Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon has been highlighted by NIDCD and Medical Xpress.


Read full article in Medical Xpress.





SHBT Faculty in the Spotlight


CoreyHoltSHBT Faculty David Corey (left) and Jeffrey Holt (right) are featured in the Harvard Gazette’s recent article for their research on the TMC1 gene which opens doors for precision-targeted therapies to treat hearing loss.


Read full article in the Harvard Gazette.




2018-2019 Amelia Peabody Scholarship awarded to Stefan Raufer


We are pleased to announce that the 2018-2019 Amelia Peabody Scholarship has been awarded to Stefan Raufer, a fourth-year student in the Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology (SHBT) Program. The awarding committee also gives commendations to Justin Fleming, a third-year student, and Peter Bowers a fifth-year student for their innovative research.


Stefan is doing his doctoral research jointly with Dr. Hideko Nakajima and Dr. Sunil Puria, both with the Department of Otolaryngology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear (MEE). The research aims at understanding human cochlear mechanics and how it is altered by cochlear impairments. Combining the human temporal bone preparation and elegant experimental techniques of the Nakajima with theoretical insights from the Puria lab, Stefan has made the most accurate measurements of the passive mechanical characteristics of the human cochlear partition to date. He finds that the osseous spiral lamina vibrates significantly in the human cochlea, in sharp contrast to observations from experimental animals. This surprising finding has major implications for the understanding of cochlear mechanics and transduction mechanisms in humans. Stefan has presented his research at meetings of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology and his paper for the Mechanics of Hearing Symposium has been accepted in the Conference Proceedings. He was previously awarded a prestigious ERP fellowship from the German government and a fellowship grant from the American Otological Society.


Justin is doing research jointly with Dr. Barbara Shinn-Cunningham at Boston University and Dr. Daniel Polley at MEE. He is using innovative virtual reality techniques and EEG to study the perceptual binding of auditory and visual inputs to form stable perceptual objects. This understudied area is important because our perception of the environment depends critically on the integration of multiple sensory inputs.



Peter’s research with Dr. John Rosowski at MEE focuses of the mechanisms of hearing through bone conduction, which plays an important role in the diagnostic and treatment of conductive hearing loss. Using an innovative combination of tightly-coupled experiments and models in humans and animal models, Peter is able to tease the relative contributions of the different mechanisms that contribute to bone conducted hearing.



The Amelia Peabody Scholarship was established in 2008 through a generous donation to support SHBT students working with MEE faculty. The selection was done by a committee consisting of Dr. Bradley Welling (MEE), Dr. Louis D. Braida (MIT), and Dr. Bertrand Delgutte (MEE).



If you’ve seen and heard the "Yanny and Laurel" video making the rounds lately, you may be convinced of hearing one word, while the person next to you hears something different.  SHBT students Dana Boebinger and Kevin Sitek give a scientific explanation for the ambiguous speech percept behind the viral video that has been circulating on the internet and social media recently:

"The main reason (I suspect) people hear this differently is because different headphones and speakers filter the frequencies of the sound in different ways," tweeted Dana Boebinger, a Phd student at Harvard and MIT studying auditory perception. 



Dissertation Defense:

Jessica Elysse Sagers

Novel Mechanistic Insights and Therapeutic Strategies for Vestibular Schwannoma and Neurofibromatosis Type 2


Thursday, March 28, 2019 at 2:00PM
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Floor 3, Meltzer Auditorium
243 Charles Street, Boston, MA  02114

Advisor: Konstantina Stankovic, Department of Otology and Laryngology



Andrew Mitchell Ayoob

Progress Toward Improved Drug Delivery to the Inner Ear: Methods of Measuring Intracochlear Drug Distribution and Materials-Based Approaches for Controlled Release


Monday, May 7, 2018 at 1:30 PM

Koch Institute, MIT Building 76 Room 156 (76-156)

Cambridge, MA 02139

Advisor: Robert Langer



Rachel Romeo
Environmental influences on the neural basis of language and reading development


Monday, April 30, 2018, 10 AM
MIT Building 46 (BCS Complex), Room 46-3002 (Singleton Auditorium)
43 Vassar St, Cambridge, MA 02139


Children’s environments early in life can have a profound influence on brain development, which provides the foundation for language and cognition. These environments include broad, distant factors such as one’s socioeconomic status (SES), as well as more immediate influences, such as how many words a parent speaks to a child. In this thesis, I describe two studies investigating specific brain-environment relationships, progressing from distal to proximal influences on children’s language and literacy development. The first study examines how SES relates to reading and cortical structure in 6-9 year-old children with reading disability (RD), before and after an intensive summer intervention. At baseline, SES was correlated with children’s vocabulary and cortical thickness in bilateral perisylvian and supramarginal regions. Furthermore, SES uniquely predicted reading improvement and cortical growth, with lower-SES children exhibiting the greatest behavioral and neuroanatomical changes. These findings contribute to the literature on socioeconomic effects on neuroanatomy and neuroplasticity by investigating these relationships in a developmentally atypical population. The second study explores how the real-world language exposure of younger children (ages 4-6 years) relates to their oral language skills and both structural and functional brain development, independent of SES. While the sheer amount of adult speech was unrelated to neural measures, the amount of adult-child conversational turns was strongly related to Broca’s area activation during language processing, as well as the coherence of left hemisphere white matter tracts connecting Broca’s area to auditory regions. Both neural measures in turn predicted children’s verbal skills, suggesting that conversational experience impacts language development via these neural mechanisms. This is the first evidence directly relating children’s immediate language environments with brain development. The combined results of both studies expand on the well-documented socioeconomic differences in linguistic skill (the “achievement gap”) and concomitant brain development and suggest that these differences may arise as a result of variance in children’s interactive language experiences early in life. Implications for social, educational, and clinical practices are discussed.



Jennifer Zuk
Sowing seeds of literacy: Factors that promote language and reading acquisition along the neurodevelopmental trajectory from infancy to school age


Thursday, April 26, 2018, 11 AM
Harvard Medical School, Building C, Cannon Room
240 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115


Learning to read is crucial for academic and societal achievement. Dyslexia, a prevalent learning disorder specific to reading, is typically identified only after persistent difficulty with reading. Early identification and targeted instruction for children at risk for dyslexia offers great potential to employ a proactive (rather than reactive) approach; however, effective implementation requires further specification of factors that contribute to subsequent outcomes, how early these factors arise, and the role of environmental experience. Therefore, this dissertation investigated factors that promote language and reading acquisition through a series of multidimensional neuroimaging studies that span the developmental trajectory from infancy to school age. The first study examined factors associated with better reading outcomes among at-risk children in a longitudinal investigation from kindergarten through second grade. At-risk children were classified by early screening, then characterized behaviorally and with diffusion-weighted imaging, and longitudinally tracked to evaluate subsequent word reading outcomes. Kindergarten-age factors on cognitive-linguistic, environmental, and neural levels were observed to significantly differ between at-risk children who subsequently did not develop dyslexia relative to those who did, suggesting that these factors, present at the start of formal instruction, may promote reading acquisition. The second study evaluated the role of environmental experience through the lens of musical training. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging study, school-age children with musical training demonstrated enhanced activation during reading-related processes in brain regions disrupted among children with dyslexia. This suggests that musical training is associated with activation in regions important for reading, which could potentially facilitate the development of a compensatory neural network that may support reading development among children with dyslexia. The final study considered how early these factors may arise by examining the extent to which brain structure in infancy may relate to subsequent language and precursor literacy skills in preschool. This longitudinal diffusion-weighted imaging study found that white matter pathways in infancy were positively related to several aspects of language and precursor literacy skills in preschool. Collectively, these studies suggest a dynamic interaction between predispositions from infancy and environmental experience in shaping the developmental trajectory of language and reading acquisition. These findings carry important implications for educational and clinical practice.



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