ISTAR has always been a centre for research on stuttering. The current direction of research focuses on the cause and treatment of stuttering. We are currently investigating three main areas. The first area is the speech of people who stutter, which has been found to be more variable even during fluent speech. We hypothesize that this variability is one key to the link between fluency and disfluency. We are using motion tracking equipment to track speech movements and resolve the cause of the variability.
The second area focuses on how decision making influences stuttering treatment outcome. We are testing the cognitive abilities that underlie decision making such as memory, information processing, inhibitory processing, reaction time and multi-tasking ability. Another term for these abilities is executive function. We anticipate that individual differences in executive function will reveal why treatment can be more or less effective. This information will be used to optimize treatment options for individuals.
The third area is an innovative virtual reality or VR application intended to provide virtual environments. Participants will be able to practice therapy skills in diverse speaking situations. We predict this will help to reduce anxiety associated with stuttering.
The lab uses a variety of equipment to test these different topics. We have a motion tracking camera to measure facial movements and a magnetometer to track tongue movements. Novel software running on iPads is used to present games that test decision making ability. Our VR suite is equipped with an HTC VIVE, a gaming computer, driving station and stress monitoring system.