About the Lab:
The Centanni lab (aka the Genetics of Auditory Perception and Plasticity lab) focuses on studying auditory perception (with a focus on language), genetic influences in communication disorders, and neural plasticity during intervention. To accomplish this goal, the lab uses a variety of models to better understand the biological mechanisms of communication impairments. To unpack the genetic heterogeneity of language and reading, we use rats as a model to investigate the link between certain genes and auditory perception and plasticity. We then bring in human participants to test these results and evaluate new methods of driving plasticity during language and reading interventions. This approach will help us bridge the GAPP between basic science of mechanism discovery and the application of this knowledge for improved diagnosis and improvement of language and reading in humans.
Ongoing and Future Projects:
The efficacy of auricular vagus nerve stimulation on improving fluency during reading acquisition
Previous work by Dr. Centanni has demonstrated that some children who struggle to learn to read have inconsistency in their brain's response to speech and letter stimuli. In these children, their brains do not respond the same way every time they hear a single speech sound. In typical readers, this consistency is important when it comes time to match the sound a letter makes to the visual presentation of that letter (a grapheme). Many interventions already exist for dyslexia, but none are 100% successful and there are many brain and genetic differences that may drive the failure of children to respond in any single case. The Centanni Lab is currently running a study in typical, college-age adults to test a novel method for improving the ease with which sounds are mapped onto new letters. Stay tuned for more information as this exciting study moves forward!
Genetic influences on communication disorders and plasticity
Communication disorders in humans are complex and often the result of many genes. Dr. Centanni's previous work involved unpacking the role of two individual dyslexia-associated genes on auditory perception and plasticity for auditory stimuli, including speech sounds. The Centanni lab will be ramping up several studies in the coming months to investigate these genes further and to expand our work into autism related genes. For example, one of our first studies involves a rat model of autism in which the candidate-gene CNTNAP2 has been knocked out. This gene has implications for IQ and motor production of speech, but whether this gene affects auditory perception or prediction (a common deficit in autism) is unknown. We will be running these rats through a variety of behavioral and neural recording paradigms to answer these questions.
Audiovisual integration in a rat model of dyslexia
Dr Centanni's previous work demonstrated auditory deficits in rat models of dyslexia, but it is unknown whether we can model the letter-to-sound pairing deficits seen in this disorder using the rat. Previous studies employed albino rats, which have poor visual acuity. The Centanni lab at TCU will be designing a behavioral paradigm to test the ability of rats to pair sounds to visual objects and to detect mismatched stimuli. We will use a strain of rat with better visual acuity for this paradigm and then once optimized, use this paradigm to investigate the role of candidate dyslexia genes on task performance.