Cochlear Implant Project


Cochlear Implants (CI) are a revolutionary brain-based treatment for children with hearing loss. CI is a surgically implanted device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing in both ears using an electronic sound processor. Yet, little is known about the brain supports language development in children with CI. Currently, we are interested in how children with CI succeed in acquiring language sounds and sentence prosody (intonation, tone, pitch, and stress). 

Why is our research important?

The focus of this project is to improve our efforts in helping children with cochlear implants learn language. We do this by studying the brain mechanisms involved in speech and sound processing in children with typical hearing as well as children with CI. By examining children’s brain activity, we can learn about how successful language learners use language-specific processes, memory, and attention. The findings will reveal sources of individual variation in language acquisition and how to capitalize on that variation to help children learn.

Your participation helps educators, researchers, and scientists understand how children with CI learn language differently than children with typical hearing. In addition, it helps us improve language teaching and learning for children with CI.

How do we study brain development?

All our studies use assessments and games to help us understand your child’s language and reading skills. These games measure things like vocabulary, grammar, and reading comprehension. We also use fNIRS, a child-friendly method that helps us see how the brain works. Children play fun computer games that ask them to think about sounds, words, and sentences, and we use fNIRS to measure their brain activity while they play.

What will my child do?

When you first come in, we will take some time to talk to your family, show you around, and make sure your child is excited to play! Then we will play some English games to assess your child’s language and reading skills. We will also teach your child some easy computer games, and measure their brain activity using fNIRS neuroimaging. While your child is participating, we may also ask you to complete a survey. At the end of your visit, your child will receive a prize, and your family will be compensated for your time. Each session takes about 3 hours, with plenty of breaks for snacks. 

What is fNIRS? How does it work?

fNIRS (functional near infrared functional spectroscopy) and it is a non-invasive neuroimaging technique that is used to study brain activity using light! Your child will wear a hat with light sources (like tiny flashlights) and detectors. Sources produce near-infrared light, which is absorbed by the detectors.

When you use language, oxygen flows to certain regions of the brain to help you think. fNIRS shines light into the brain and measures the amount of light that is absorbed. Light absorption changes based on the flow of oxygen as your child is busy reading, talking, or playing games. We can analyze this information to learn about how your child’s brain works!

Is it safe?

Of course! fNIRS does not use radiation or require your child to stay still in a closed structure. Your child will be seated comfortably in a chair, where he/she will play computer games while wearing a “special cap,” which has all the light sources and detectors. It’s no different than shining a flashlight at your head. To learn more about how fNIRS works, click here.

If you are interested in participating in our study, please email