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The Communicating Brain

This module provides students with an understanding of the current knowledge on how the human brain gives rise to communication, with a focus on the state-of-the-art methods used to study questions related to the neural basis of typical and atypical communication. Across module activities, emphasis will be placed on practical use of current methods for studying the brain and their translational clinical potential, with the goal of providing a strong foundation for students pursuing medical or clinical professions (audiologist, physician, speech-language pathologist) or further study and research in neuroscience or communication sciences and disorders. A new seminar course designed for the module is required, which involves in-depth study of various human cognitive neuroscience tools and an experiential learning opportunity, as students work as a team to design, execute, and analyze their own cognitive neuroscience experiment. In sum, this module will provide students the opportunity to gain a deep appreciation for the tools we use to study the brain and how it gives rise to typical and atypical communication abilities. 

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the brain regions, networks, and processes that support typical speech, language, and hearing abilities in humans. 
  • Explain similarities and differences between functional and structural neural basis of communication in atypical populations and across development 
  • Appraise the utility of various methods for studying the neural basis of human communication for different questions and populations. 
  • Assess and critique the questions, hypotheses, methods, and results from primary research articles related to the neural basis of human communication. 
  • Interpret the clinical and translational implications of findings from human cognitive neuroscience research. 
  • Experience hands-on research in both the module course and in a faculty-led research lab. 


The Communicating Brain Course Requirements


Required opportunities: 

Recommended opportunities for application and practice on campus: 

  • Attending CSD research day events (at which PhD and AuD students give talks) 
  • Observing clinical intervention and assessments in the NUCASLL clinic 
  • Attending tutorials, and workshops on cognitive and neuroscience data (e.g., Computational Research Day) 
  • Volunteering to participate in research studies 
  • Engagement with existing student groups, including Cognitive Science Club, National Student Speech Language Hearing Association 

Recommended opportunities for projects, practica, and internships off campus: 

  • Attendance at regional and national scientific meetings related to neuroscience and communication (Society for Neurobiology of Language, Cognitive Neuroscience Society, Illinois Speech-Language-Hearing Association, etc.) 
  • Serving as a research assistant in laboratories or clinical settings off campus 

Community Building Activities: 

  • Culminating presentation of capstone project at annual CSD student presentation day in spring quarter 
  • Students select an invited speaker from NU or the Chicago area to give a talk and share a lunch or dinner 
  • Networking reception with researchers and research administrators on campus 


After completing the module courses, students will create one of two products that demonstrate their knowledge, either a brief study design (which can form the foundation of a graduate research proposal) or an infographic about a topic related to the neuroscience of communication. Students will also present their capstone project at the annual CSD student presentation day. 

Sponsoring Department(s): Communication Sciences and Disorders 

Module Coordinator (main student contacts): Elizabeth Norton, 

Committee of Instruction: Nina Kraus, PhD

Module Advisor: Jeanette A Ortiz 

How to Enroll 

Currently not accepting applications.

Open to all NU undergraduates.

Students who are sophomores, juniors, or seniors from all schools are invited to apply; preference may be given to students majoring or minoring in SoC. The module is capped at 8 students per year. Students should submit a paragraph describing their interest in the module and plan for completing required courses and research experience via the module RedCap site by October 15. The module advisor will select students based on these criteria and notify them via email. 

Grade Policy

Students must maintain a B- average in module coursework. If their average falls below B-, they will not be permitted to submit a capstone.