Benedictine University awarded $382,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health
Benedictine University in Lisle has been awarded $382,000 for Biological Research from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communicative Disorders as part of more than $4 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services medical research funding for Illinois institutions.
The funding will support a Benedictine University project that is examining how endocrine disrupting chemicals impact speech development. Using a frog model, Benedictine researchers will examine the development, behavior, and the function of the brain and larynx in producing vocalizations.
The grant is in the category R15 and meant to enhance academic research at undergraduate-focused institutions. The goals of an R15 grant are to support meritorious research, expose students to research, and strengthen the research environment of the institution.
The research will be conducted by Benedictine University's Ian Hall, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, along with a team of five undergraduate students. Dr. Hall's research examines links between sensory processing and the execution of social behavior. He uses African clawed frogs, a well-established NIH model organism, to examine how the brain and larynx work together to generate vocal patterns.
The grant will support research on the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals on vocal development. Endocrine disrupting chemicals are chemicals that can interfere with the function of hormonal systems. One such chemical is bisphenol A (or BPA,) which is used primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics. It is found in various products including water bottles, shatterproof windows and eyewear.
Dr. Hall's experiments, funded by the R15 grant, will examine the effects of BPA on the development of vocal patterns and the impact it has on the brain and larynx.
By understanding how BPA impacts the development of vocal skills and structures, we can identify potential targets for speech therapy and highlight the potential hazards of long-term, low-dose exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals.
The grant to Benedictine University was part of $4.65 million in U.S. Department of a Health and Human Services medical research grant funding for Illinois institutions. The funding will be put toward research programs across the state to support advancements in sectors ranging from maternal health care to communicative disorders. It was announced earlier this month by U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).
"It's a great honor for our program," Dr. Hall said. "The College of Science and Health at Benedictine has long been at the forefront of research, scholarship, innovative teaching, and service to the broader community, and I'm proud to be part of this program."