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Allen R. Braun, M.D.

Chief, Language Section
Voice, Speech, and Language Branch

Building 10, Room 8S235A
Bethesda, MD 20892
Phone: (301) 402-1497
Fax: (301) 402-0409

Research Statement

The mission of the Language Section is to understand how language is instantiated in the brain, how brain-language relationships are interrupted by disorders that affect the ability to communicate, and how these disorders can be treated. We use a combination of imaging modalities—hemodynamic methods (PET and fMRI) complemented by electrophysiological (EEG/ERP and magnetoencephalography) and PET radiochemical tracer techniques—to this end.

We investigate both language production and comprehension, since disorders affecting speech and language typically have a significant impact on both, and how the brain processes language cannot be completely understood by studying either in isolation. We study language at multiple levels, from its elementary perceptual and motor features, to higher-level linguistic processing. But we are particularly interested in more complex, real-world language use because this ecologically valid condition is often the only context in which symptoms of many language disorders present.

Imaging paradigms developed in control subjects constitute the tools with which we study neurological disorders that affect speech, voice and language. These include deafness and central auditory processing impairments as well as Parkinson¹s disease and developmental stuttering, disorders that reflect pathology at the borderland between motor and cognitive-linguistic function.

Multimodal imaging of functional recovery in post-stroke aphasia has become a central focus of activity in our Section. We use multiple modalities to identify the central correlates of neuroplastic reorganization and repair in aphasic patients; these studies are complemented by the use of a rodent stroke model in which MRI, electrophysiological and neurochemical investigations help us to interpret the results obtained in humans, and to design effective therapeutic interventions.

Members of our Section are also interested in music processing (particularly the relationships between music and language in the brain), and in sleep (the effect of sleep deprivation on language performance as well as the neural architecture of sleep itself).

Research positions are generally available. The Language Section is a cooperative environment in which there is an opportunity to interact with postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and technicians with a wide range of interests and skills.

Figure 1 Figure 2
Figure 1: Brain maps illustrating increasing activity and functional connectivity of perisylvian and extrasylvian areas in both hemispheres as subjects read words, sentences and narratives. These emergent, context-dependent effects are demonstrated using both fMRI and EEG coherence methods. Figure 2: fMRI is used to capture sequential patterns of brain activity during visual object naming. Areas associated with early lexical access (object recognition and word finding) are illustrated in the top panel; areas associated with later articulation and auditory self monitoring on the bottom panel; core language areas, illustrated in the middle panel, are active during each of these stages.

Lab Personnel

Dr. Jiang Xu, M.D., Fogarty Research Associate (Send email
Dr. Joseph McArdle, Postdoctoral IRTA Fellow (Send email
Dr. Jed Meltzer, Ph.D., Postdoctoral IRTA Fellow (Send email
Mr. Bruce Swett, Predoctoral IRTA Fellow (Send email)
Ms. Torri Wilson, Technician (Send email)
Dr. Walter Carr, Research Fellow, Special Volunteer (Send email
Dr. Dante Picchioni, Research Fellow, Special Volunteer (Send email
Mr. Trent Bradberry, Student, Contractor (Send email
Ms. Michelle Costanzo, Student, Contractor (Send email)
Mr. Guang Zheng, Contractor (Send email)

Selected Publications


National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Celebrating 20 years of research: 1988 to 2008