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National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NICDC) Celebrated Its 20th Anniversary

by Jennifer Wenger, Office of Public Liaison, NIH
(301) 496-7243, jwenger@mail.nih.gov

Stellar Scientists, Author Took Part in NIDCD’s 20th Anniversary Symposium http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/about/20th_symposium_video.htm

The scientific and human sides of communication and communication disorders were featured when the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), one of the National Institutes of Health, held a symposium to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The symposium took place at the Natcher Conference Center, on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md. It highlighted accomplishments of NIDCD research over the past two decades as well as the perspectives and talents of people who have a personal connection with a communication disorder.

In her presentation “In an Instant,” author Lee Woodruff shared her family’s story about the life-altering changes they experienced when her husband, ABC news anchor and reporter Bob Woodruff, suffered a traumatic brain injury after his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in Iraq. (The Woodruffs coauthored The New York Times bestselling book of the same title.) Mr. Woodruff’s injury impacted the language part of his brain causing aphasia, a disorder that affects a person’s ability to express and understand language. In addition, Ms. Woodruff discussed her experience when she and her husband discovered that their 5-month-old daughter – one of twins – was hearing-impaired.

The symposium included three scientific sessions representing NIDCD’s primary areas of research: hearing and balance; smell and taste; and voice, speech, and language. An opening session entitled “As Time Goes By: A Population Perspective on Hearing in Aging,” was delivered by epidemiologist Karen J. Cruickshanks, Ph.D., an NIDCD advisory council member and a professor in the Departments of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Presenters for the Hearing and Balance section included:

  • David P. Corey, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, who spoke on “Biophysics, Genes, and Structure: An Integrated Understanding of the Inner Ear.”
  • John K. Niparko, M.D., professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who spoke on “Childhood Development after Cochlear Implantation.”

Presenters for the Smell and Taste section included:

  • Richard Axel, M.D., university professor and investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Columbia University, who spoke on “Internal Representations of the Olfactory World.” Dr. Axel is a recipient of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his groundbreaking research on the sense of smell.
  • Gary K. Beauchamp, Ph.D., director and president of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, who spoke on “The Chemical Senses and Human Health: Food and the Environment.”

Presenters for the Voice, Speech, and Language section included:

  • Helen Tager-Flusberg, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Boston University School of Medicine, who spoke on “Language Across the Life Span: Improving Lives in the 21st Century.”
  • Robert E. Remez, Ph.D. professor in the Department of Psychology, Columbia University, who spoke on “Progress and Prospects in Research on Speech Perception.”
  • The symposium also featured musical performances by Yew Choong Cheong, an internationally acclaimed pianist with hearing loss, and Richard Reed, a rock-and-roll and R&B musician who lost his hearing from exposure to certain medications and who now wears a cochlear implant. Cheong, who is currently working toward his Ph.D. in music at West Virginia University, performed in the atrium during registration and throughout the closing reception. Reed performed a first-hand demonstration on his keyboard of what music sounds like through a cochlear implant, entitled “Music Lost and Found.”

    Also providing remarks that day were Raynard S. Kington, M.D., Ph.D., deputy director of NIH and James F. Battey, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., director of the NIDCD;. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), who authored the legislation that created the NIDCD, offered remarks by videotape. Scientific posters from NIDCD intramural researchers were featured during the reception, and professional and advocacy organizations in the area of communication disorders staffed exhibits featuring educational resources and other information.

    For more information about NIDCD programs, and release of the webcast of the anniversary symposium, see the NIDCD Web site at www.nidcd.nih.gov.

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