NIH GUIDE, Volume 25, Number 40, November 22, 1996


P.T. 34


  Communicative Disorders, Hearing 

  Communicative Disorders, Speech 


National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders




This notice is to inform the scientific community of several areas of

research emphasis within the National Institute on Deafness and Other

Communication Disorders (NIDCD) and to encourage grant applications

seeking support for these areas of research.  The NIDCD has primary

responsibility for supporting basic, clinical and applied research

and research training on normal and disordered mechanisms of hearing,

balance, smell, taste, voice, speech and language (i.e.,

communication disorders).  More than 46 million people in the United

States suffer from some form of communication disorder.  The NIDCD

addresses special biomedical and behavioral problems associated with

people who have communication impairments or disorders.  This notice

highlights several of the research areas that have been identified by

the Programs Advisory Committee of the NIDCD as opportunities or gap

areas in need of research emphasis.


Research Goals and Scope


I.  Application of Emerging Technologies to Human Communication


The introduction of new technologies in recent years offers a unique

opportunity to apply innovative approaches to basic and clinical

investigations of human communication. Areas of research emphasis

include, but are not limited to:


o  Application of advanced imaging technologies - New imaging

techniques provide research opportunities for studies of structure

and function, diagnostics, treatment and rehabilitation of

individuals with communication disorders.  Research plans should

focus on the development of new imaging techniques and the

application of existing imaging techniques to the study of the normal

processes of human communication as well as the changes in function

that are associated with diseases and disorders of communication.

Collaborations among scientific disciplines are encouraged.


o  Approaches for gene transfer into cells of the inner ear -

Advances in gene transfer technology provide the possibility of

replacing or enhancing the function of mutated genes in disorders

that lead to or predispose the development of inner ear lesions which

cause hearing impairment and balance disorders.  Initial studies of

effective approaches for DNA transfer into cells of the inner ear may

include the use of "reporter" genes that produce an easily detectable



o  Application of genetic and molecular approaches to voice, speech

and language research - Within this broad area, research topics may

include, but are not limited to: cellular and molecular mechanisms

underlying critical periods in voice, speech and language

development; the role of neurotrophins and growth factors in recovery

from brain injury and wound healing; and the application of molecular

genetic techniques such as gene linkage analysis and positional

cloning strategies to voice, speech and language disorders.


o  Molecular regulation of receptor subtypes in chemoreceptors -

Continuous renewal of chemosensory receptor cells poses a fundamental

question of how these systems maintain stable sensory capabilities in

the face of sensory cell turnover and subsequent synaptogenesis.

Studies are needed to examine the molecular mechanisms that regulate

the expression of individual receptor subtypes and to identify

signals from the nervous system and/or chemical environment that may

influence these processes.


II.  Prevention and Treatment of Communication Disorders


The NIDCD encourages research on the development and evaluation of

new approaches for the prevention and treatment of communication

disorders.  Results of research in these areas will provide a

rational basis for designing interventions to improve the quality of

life for all individuals with communication disorders.  Within this

broad area, research topics of emphasis include, but are not limited



o  Pharmacotherapy for individuals with communication disorders -

The application of contemporary techniques of molecular and cellular

biology is needed for the rational development of effective

pharmacotherapeutic agents for the prevention and treatment of

communication disorders.  Randomized, controlled clinical trials are

also needed to determine the efficacy of a variety of

pharmacotherapeutic agents for individuals with communication



o  Hearing impairment and other communication disorders associated

with cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection, human immunodeficiency virus

(HIV) infection, and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) -

Additional research on these topics will increase understanding of

the etiology and pathophysiology of communication impairments

resulting from CMV infection, HIV infection, and AIDS.  This

information is needed to improve treatment and quality of life for

HIV-infected individuals.


o  Neural control of swallowing and dysphagia - Basic and clinical

studies will lead to a better understanding of the oral, pharyngeal

and laryngeal components of swallowing and dysphagia.  The NIDCD

encourages studies on the development of instrumentation and imaging

techniques to assess the normal swallowing process and its disorders,

and the assessment of treatment efficacy including pharmacotherapy,

surgery, prosthetic devices, compensatory strategies and behavioral



III.  Integrative Neuroscience


Integration of various aspects of molecular and cellular biology with

function and behavior and the determination of their relationship to

disorders of human communication will provide a rational basis for

approaches to therapeutic intervention.  Emphasis should be placed on

integrating findings across two or more levels of biological

organization to answer questions directly; previously, answers could

only be inferred by combining data obtained from several sources.

Examples of areas of emphasis include, but are not limited to:


o  Computational neuroscience - Computational neuroscience offers new

and powerful tools to develop comprehensive and accurate models of

neural and behavioral function.  Research areas of interest include,

but are not limited to:  models of ion channels and receptors;

biophysical mechanisms in synapses and neurons; simulations of neural

circuits or networks; and models of sensory information processing,

sensorimotor integration, plasticity, recovery of function, learning,

language and memory.


o  New approaches to investigate higher cognitive functions -

Research is needed on the central processing of sensory information

leading to higher cognitive functions in communication, such as

perception, discrimination, plasticity, multisensory integration,

learning, language and memory.  Recent progress on receptor

mechanisms and transduction events underscores the importance of

integrating these findings with more complex behaviors and functions

of the whole organism.  The ability of sensory systems to preserve

and enhance certain types of information and then to transform that

information into other coding schemes that lead to perception and

interpretation is currently not well understood.  Specific questions

of interest include, but are not limited to:  (1) the failure of

specific cognitive mechanisms in language impairment; and (2) the

role of cerebral cortical centers receiving vestibular inputs in

spatial cognitive functions, such as the perception of verticality

and the direction of "heading" (spatial navigation) during



IV.  Development, Repair and Regeneration


Research is needed to understand the molecular, genetic and cellular

regulatory factors that underlie normal and abnormal development of

communication processes.  Studies are encouraged to identify

mechanisms that regulate differentiation, cell migration, axonal

guidance, synaptogenesis and neurogenesis.  There is a particular

need for investigations aimed at determining how connectivity and

synaptic specificity are established in the vestibular pathways.

Additional areas of emphasis include:  neural plasticity and recovery

from injury; critical periods of development; factors that enhance

regeneration and repair; and transplantation of neurogenic cell





Applicants that think the topic of an application is within an area

of special research emphasis are encouraged to contact the NIDCD.

The opportunity to clarify any issues or questions from potential

applicants is welcome.  All applications will be assigned according

to PHS Referral Guidelines and determination of high program priority

will be made by NIDCD staff.  Direct inquiries regarding programmatic

issues to:


Dr. Rochelle Small

Division of Human Communication

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

6120 Executive Boulevard, Room 400-C - MSC-7180

Bethesda, MD  20892-7180

Telephone:  (301) 402-3464

FAX:  (301) 402-6251




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