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Speech and Voice Production

The goal of the Speech and Voice Production Laboratory is to contribute research data towards increased understanding of normal and disordered speech and voice production to inform clinical practice. In addition, the lab provides an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to learn about research in the speech sciences through active participation as student research assistants. Inquiries by interested students are welcome: please contact Dr. Cavallo at or Dr. Behrman at

Laboratory facilities include a large sound-proof booth (room 141) for high quality digital recording and a room dedicated to conducting research therapy protocols and student research assistant workspace (room 229). Instrumentation is available for acoustic data gathering and analysis, digital video recording, and aerodynamic assessments of airflow, dynamic air pressure, volume, and chest wall kinematics.

Research projects directed by Dr. Alison Behrman

  • A study currently in the data analysis stage examines the coupling between intonation and hand gestures in neurotypical speakers. Sixty speakers were trained to increase their intonation (“use more vocal variety”) while retelling stories. Half of the speakers were also instructed to use more gestures when talking. Three weeks later, the speakers read the phrases again, this time in a stressful (“test”) setting. The data show that use of gestures significantly increases intonation contour.
  • A study currently in the initial data collection stage examines the effect of “clear speech” on intelligibility, acoustic metrics (specifically vowel and rhythm measures) and auditory-perceptual judgments (accentedness) in Spanish-accented speakers of American English. This study is being conducted with the assistance of Laima Efremenkova, a graduate student in the program.
  • A large upcoming study focuses upon rehabilitation of Spanish-English bilinguals with non-progressive motor speech disorders (MSDs). Although studies support the efficacy of speech therapy for MSDs, most of the research has been conducted on monolingual English speakers. The interaction of a nonnative accent and impaired sensorimotor functioning provides a unique speech problem that generates many unanswered questions.

Research projects directed by Dr. Stephen Cavallo

  • Supported by a Graduate Research Technology Initiative (GRTI-8) grant, a pilot study is currently underway to evaluate the effects of two types of facemasks (circumferentially-vented and anesthesia coupled to a pneumotachograph) on ventilator behavior. The data from this pilot study will guide the selection of instrumentation for a larger study to develop a routine clinical method for measuring lung volume expenditure during reading and conversational speech.
  • Future clinical research will examine the clinical utility of acoustic and physiologic measures of phonatory ability.