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 and language 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 (aka the Code Breakers Study) to test a novel method for improving the ease with which sounds are mapped onto new letters. Please email Dr. Centanni if you are in the Fort Worth area and want to participate in this exciting study!

We are also ramping up related studies investigating the role of aVNS for novel language learning and speech sound learning.

In the Spring of 2019, we will also be conducting a related study in the animal model to investigate the mechanisms of auricular vagus nerve stimulation!

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 genes associated with communication disorders. We recently received a TCU grant to fund the generation of a Dcdc2 knockout rat to continue our work on genetics and plasticity in dyslexia. These studies will ramp up in the 2018-2019 academic year.

Can rats use speech sounds as prediction cues?

Rats are quite good at discriminating between various human speech sounds, and they can do this task in a variety of contexts. This study will evaluate whether rats can use speech sounds as predictive cues, and whether this ability varies in animal models of a common prediction disorder, autism. Stay tuned to learn more as we begin this exciting work!