The Hamilton Lab is jointly housed in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders in the Moody College of Communication and the Department of Neurology/Dell Children's Hospital at the University of Texas at Austin. Our research aims to determine how natural sounds including speech are represented by the human brain, and how these representations change during development. We study how the human brain processes speech sounds using intracranial electrocorticography (ECoG) recordings from patients with medication-refractory epilepsy who are undergoing surgery to treat their epilepsy. This work is performed in collaboration with patients and clinicians at Dell Children's Hospital in Austin, Texas. This research will not only inform us on how speech and language function relates to epilepsy, but will also help us to develop new assistive technologies for those with communication disorders.
Some results of this type of research are shown here. The movie below shows the brain's real-time response to an English sentence as the person heard it in the clinic (credit: Liberty Hamilton, data from Edward Chang's Lab at UC San Francisco). Each dot represents an electrode that was implanted during treatment for temporal lobe epilepsy. The activity is shown from light to dark red, with darker colors representing more activity during sound listening. The sound waveform is shown below. Based on responses like these, we are trying to determine how the brain can take sounds and build up information to represent phonemes, words, phrases, and whole sentences.