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 several studies in college-age adults to test a novel method for improving learning speed and retention in novel orthographies (the Code Breakers study), novel languages (the Cypher study), and speech sound categories (the TSA study). Please email Dr. Centanni if you are in the Fort Worth area and want to participate in any of these exciting studies!
Genetic influences on communication disorders and plasticity
Human work: A neurotropic factor, BDNF, is critical for learning and memory and a common variant in this gene may play a role in neural plasticity. We are currently investigating this gene in relation to our auricular vagus nerve stimulation studies and preparing to begin some exciting studies on gene-brain-behavior relationships in humans with dyslexia.
Animal model work: 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 2019-2020 academic year.
Neural mechanisms of language processing and plasticity
The lab recently installed high-density (256-channels) EEG and tDCS! With this new technology, we are designing several studies to compliment our ongoing auricular vagus nerve stimulation studies (is this technique driving neural plasticity?) and to continue our work on the gene-brain-behavior relationships in dyslexia.