New Penn State faculty member to focus on sensorimotor integration

January 30, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Nicole M. Etter, one of the newest researchers and faculty members at the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders in the College of Health and Human Development, is continuing her research in the area of speech disorders at Penn State.

Etter’s research will primarily focus on somatosensation and low-level force movements by looking at the relationship between sensation and movement in the lips and tongue.

“I'm interested in knowing if or how this relationship changes because of age, sex, smoking status and possible neurological injury like strokes or head injury,” Etter said. “The long-term plan is to be able to better design assessment and treatments for individuals with speech disorders, but before that can be done we first have to understand what's happening in a healthy population.”

Etter is furthering the work she conducted as a post-doctoral scholar at the Universtiy of Sydney in Sydney, Australia through the Endeavour Research Fellowship with collaborator Kirrie Ballard.

Another area of Etter’s research is using qualitative methodologies to design a voice-related quality of life scale for older adults. The Aging Voice Index is in the pilot testing phase with multiple universities interested in partnerships. This is an ongoing study Etter started with her master's thesis adviser Joe Stemple.

The last aspect of Etter’s research is a collaboration with Megan Danzl, an assistant professor in physical therapy at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, using Engagement Theory in the neurorehabilitation setting.

“Engagement theory was originally developed through education to keep students interested and motivated in class,” Etter said. “We think by applying some of the principles of engagement theory and developing good client or clinician rapport we can improve attention and motivation of our patients and hopefully it will lead to increased long-term neuroplastic changes, which is the primary goal of rehab.”

Etter and fellow researchers are in the process of planning qualitative and quantitative studies to move forward in this area. The group published a related article in the Journal of Allied Health in 2012.

Etter earned a bachelor of philosophy degree in 2007 at Miami University, and a master of science degree in communication sciences and disorders and doctoral degree of philosophy in rehabilitative sciences, both at the University of Kentucky.

  • Nicole Etter is a researcher and faculty member in the College of Health and Human Development.

    Nicole Etter is a researcher and faculty member in the College of Health and Human Development.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated February 02, 2015