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Published on Mar 2, 2010
Fatima Husain is adept at creating computer models for understanding auditory and speech processing. When she decided a few years ago to take on the study of tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, it was through a path few had done before: perturb her computer models of normal auditory processing to reflect the effects of the hearing disorder.
A professor of Speech and Hearing Science at Illinois, Husain has a research focus on auditory, speech, and language processing in the brain using neuroimaging (fMRI), behavioral experiments, and computational modeling techniques. By using both computer models and data from experiments Husain is able to study tinnitus from a more comprehensive perspective than what has previously been possible. Tinnitus is a disorder affecting 50 million Americans, with about two million of those being severely debilitated (www.ata.org).
We want to study a large enough population and then use our modeling and clever statistical analysis of our MRI experiments to try and identify the major sources of variance within the population and see if can we find something that is common for this population apart from the fact that they have ringing in the ears, Husain said. What is it that is common? Can we figure out the brain functions, regions, and mechanisms that underlie this disorder? If we can get there, then we are halfway to developing therapies and our own interventions.