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2021-2022 Amelia Peabody Scholarship awarded to Amanda O'Brien and Blaise Robert


Amanda O'Brien and Blaise RobertWe are pleased to announce that the 2021-2022 Amelia Peabody Scholarship has been awarded jointly to Amanda O’Brien and Blaise Robert, G2 and G4 students, respectively, in the Harvard Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology (SHBT) Program.


Amanda is beginning her doctoral research under the joint supervision of Dr. John Gabrieli and Dr. Pawan Sinha in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Science at MIT. Her project aims at understanding the neural basis for the major heterogeneity in language skills observed among those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). She is asking whether there is greater heterogeneity in patterns of brain responses in ASD, and whether that heterogeneity is greater depending on the level of speech and language complexity. Amanda is aiming for a new precision of individualized brain and behavior analysis of language in autism that integrates methods across four laboratories with expertise in neuroimaging (Gabrieli), perception (Sinha), individual language brain mapping (Fedorenko), and psycholinguistics (Shattuck-Hufnagel). Despite being enrolled in SHBT for only two years, including two-thirds during the COVID pandemic, Amanda has made remarkable progress in her research. She presented a poster of her work in the Gabrieli lab at the International Society of Autism Research Conference held virtually in May 2021. At the same time, with Pawan Sinha, she designed and executed an on-line experiment to understand the effect of linguistic prediction on categorical perception in individuals with and without ASD. She also published a systematic review of prediction in ASD in Autism Research, the flagship journal of the International Society for Autism Research.


Blaise is doing research with Dr. Daniel Polley in the Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at MEE. He has recently completed a technically challenging project aimed at characterizing the functional topography of cholinergic neurons in the basal forebrain, which play a key role in regulating cortical plasticity and auditory learning. Blaise applied innovative, fiber-based fluorescence imaging techniques using optical apparatus he largely built himself. He showed that, contrary to textbook views of cholinergic neurons as a homogeneous group, there are systematic regional differences within the basal forebrain in how cholinergic neurons regulate perceptual salience, brain states, and behavioral reinforcement. These findings, which were reported in two publications, will have a major impact on the design of future studies of cholinergic modulation on sensory perception and learning. Now, Blaise is embarking on a new project in which he applies the understanding of cholinergic modulation gained from studies in animal models to alleviate tinnitus and hyperacusis in humans. He aims to induce durable changes in the neural coding of sounds by creating the conditions for dampened sound responses during the windows of cortical plasticity opened by surges of acetylcholine. His goal is to identify combinations of sensory stimuli and movement that promote dampened activity in the auditory cortex and thereby alleviate tinnitus.


The Amelia Peabody Scholarship was established in 2008 through a generous donation to support SHBT students. The selection was done by a committee consisting of Dr. Jeffrey Tao Cheng (MEE), Dr. Bertrand Delgutte (MEE), Dr. Evelina Fedorenko (MIT), Dr. Gwenaëlle Géléoc (BCH), Dr. David Jung (MEE) and Dr. Kristina Simonyan (MEE).



SHBT Student Dana Boebinger Featured in Podcast


Dr. Nancy Kanwisher (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and PhD candidate Dana Boebinger (Harvard University) discuss how music-selective neural populations are clearly present in people without musical training, demonstrating that they are a fundamental and widespread property of the human brain.



2021 Commencement Marshals include two SHBT students


SHBT Marshals 2021May 10, 2021
2 SHBT students, Janani Iyer and Nicole Black, will represent GSAS’s graduating class as this year’s Commencement Marshals 





Josh McDermott seeks to replicate the human auditory system


Josh McDermottMay 2, 2021
SHBT Faculty member and MIT neuroscientist Josh McDermott hopes to develop computational models that can perform sophisticated auditory tasks as well as the human brain.





Dr. Kristina Simonyan Awarded Amazon Research Award


Kristina SimonyanMarch 16, 2021
Dystonia is considered a rare disorder; it affects about 300,000 people in the United States. It's characterized by involuntary muscle movements that can manifest throughout the body. The long and difficult diagnosis time, which takes an average of five-and-a-half years for a typical patient, is exactly why Amazon Research Award recipient Dr. Kristina Simonyan spent the last decade-plus developing DystoniaNet, a new AI-based deep learning platform that can perform the task in a fraction of a second. Find out how it works, and the research that went into discovering the solution. #BrainAwarenessWeek #AmazonResearchAwards


SHBT Faculty Gwenaelle Geleoc and Jeffrey Holt Receive Pioneer Award from the Association for Research in Otolaryngology


Gwenaelle Geleoc and Jeffrey HoltCongratulations to SHBT Faculty Jeffrey Holt and Gwenaelle Geleoc for receiving the ARO 2021 Pioneer Award for their joint work leading to significant advance in hearing and vestibular science: the identification of the ion channel proteins (TMC proteins) that sense sound and head motions in the inner ear, and water displacement in lateral line organs. This highly significant discovery is the direct product of a decade or more of innovative and virtuoso experiments that reflect scientific vision, acumen, and tenacity. The identity of the transduction channels has both fundamental and translational importance for therapy for inner ear genetic disorders.


This award will be presented at the ARO 2021 Virtual MidWinter Meeting.


Nicole Black Awarded 2020 Baxter Young Investigator Award


Nicole BlackSHBT Student Nicole Black was recently awarded a 2020 Baxter Young Investigator Award. Nicole’s research in Biomimetic and Biodegradable 3D-Printed Tympanic Membrane Grafts (PhonoGraft) earned her First-Tier award.


Baxter Young Investigator Awards - 2020 Winners


Baxter's Young Investigator Awards seek to stimulate and reward research applicable to the development of therapies and medical products that save and sustain patients' lives. We invite current graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to submit descriptions of ongoing research. The Baxter Young Investigator Awards program consists of two tiers: first-tier awards include a $3,000 cash prize and an onsite visit to Baxter to present the award-winning research; second-tier awards receive a $500 cash prize. Prizes are granted based on merit of the research.


SHBT Student Christine Junhui Liu Awarded Science and Innovation Fellowship by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University


Christine LiuSHBT Student Christine Junhui Liu was among four Harvard doctoral students awarded Science and Innovation Fellowships for the 2020-2021 academic year by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. Christine is a doctoral student in Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology, Division of Medical Sciences. Her research aims to increase understanding of the neural mechanisms of auditory plasticity. She want to find new ways to stimulate brain rewiring for the treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders. She seeks to understand the impact of early sound and language on child brain development and to help children with neurodevelopmental disorders. Christine received a B.A. in neuroscience and a B.M. in music theory from Northwestern University. Her mentor is Anne E. Takesian, Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School.


Each Science and Innovation Fellow will receive a grant to support her or his independent dissertation research. The Fellowship was created with the aim of creating a new generation of leaders who will leverage science for innovation in early childhood policy and practice settings to make research actionable. The Fellowship program fosters interdisciplinary collaboration and builds each Fellow’s capacity to design, conduct, and translate research into practices and policies that will improve outcomes for children facing adversity.


About the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University


The mission of the Center on the Developing Child is to drive science-based innovation that achieves breakthrough outcomes for children facing adversity. We believe that advances in science provide a powerful source of new ideas focused on the early years of life. Founded in 2006, the Center catalyzes local, national, and international innovation in policy and practice focused on children and families. We design, test, and implement these ideas in collaboration with a broad network of research, practice, policy, community, and philanthropic leaders.


For more information about the Center on the Developing Child, please visit:



Recent SHBT Graduate Ariel Yeh’s featured in the Harvard Gazette


Ariel YehSHBT Graduate Ariel Yeh’s research on recessive genes and genome editing to address hearing loss are featured in this recent article in the Harvard Gazette:




2020-2021 Amelia Peabody Scholarship


The 2020-2021 Amelia Peabody Scholarship has been awarded jointly to Junhui (Christine) Liu and Stephen McInturff, G2 and G4 students, respectively, in the Harvard Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology (SHBT) Program. In addition, the committee awarded a professional development prize to Meenakshi Asokan, a G5 student.


Christine LiuChristine is doing her doctoral research with Dr. Anne Takesian of the Department of Otolaryngology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear (MEE). She is interested in neural mechanisms of auditory plasticity, with the goal of identifying novel ways to stimulate brain rewiring following peripheral hearing loss or neurological disorders. Her research focuses on a group of inhibitory neurons in superficial layers of the auditory cortex that plays a role in regulating cortical plasticity. Using a combination of trans-synaptic tracing techniques, optogenetics, and electrophysiology, she characterizes the molecular identity, long- range projections, and synaptic physiology of these inhibitory neurons. Despite spending only a short time in Dr. Takesian’s lab, Christine was able to present a poster that sparked excitement within the auditory neuroscience community at the 2020 midwinter meeting of the Association of Research in Otolaryngology (ARO). Christine also has a paper in Hearing Research based on the work on "hidden hearing loss" she did in the laboratory of Dr. Nina Kraus at Northwestern University before joining the SHBT program.


Stephen McInturffSteve is working jointly with Dr. Christian Brown and Dr. Daniel Lee, both with the Department of Otolaryngology at MEE. His research aims at improving the auditory brainstem implant (ABI), a device that restores hearing in profoundly deaf patients who do not qualify for the more widely used cochlear implant. Using mouse models, Steve aims to optimize electrode placement for ABI and achieve more selective stimulation of neurons using optogenetics than is possible with electric stimulation. Steve also plays a key role in a collaborative project with Dr. Stéphanie Lacour of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) that aims at developing new, flexible electrode arrays for ABI. He applies the techniques he acquired in mouse models for testing novel electrode arrays in nonhuman primates. Steve is author of a paper resulting from this collaboration in Science Translational Medicine. He also presented his research findings at several international conferences, including the 2020 ARO meeting and the 2019 Conference on Implantable Auditory Prostheses (CIAP).


Meenakshi AsokanMeenakshi is doing her doctoral research with Dr. Daniel Polley of the Department of Otolaryngology at MEE. She has a first-author paper in Nature Communications which showed that the activity of a class of auditory cortical neurons that widely project both to subcortical auditory centers and brain areas that regulate mood and emotion is greatly upregulated following cochlear lesions that mimic the pathology thought to underlie hidden hearing loss. Her work reveals how central auditory hyperactivity can impact the activity of brain areas that cause dysregulation of mood, sleep and compulsive behaviors. In ongoing work, she finds that auditory cortical neurons, but not subcortical neurons, can encode the percept associated with the transition from a regular sound rhythm to an irregular rhythm. This finding is one of the first demonstrations of de novo cortical encoding of an emergent sound feature.


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, Chair), Dr. Bertrand Delgutte (MEE), Dr. Evelina Fedorenko (MIT), Dr. Gwenaëlle Géléoc (BCH), Dr. Sunil Puria (MEE), and Dr. Kristina Simonyan (MEE).




SHBT Faculty Satrajit Ghosh and PhD student Daniel Low are quoted in an article from Business Insider:

Do I sound sick to you? Researchers are building AI that would diagnose COVID-19 by listening to people talk.



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