Waisman Center investigator Ruth Litovsky, PhD named a Fulbright Scholar

Ruth Litovsky, PhD, a Waisman Center investigator and professor of communication sciences and disorders, is a 2014-15 Fulbright Scholar for the East-Asia Pacific Region. Litovsky is an internationally-recognized expert on auditory perception — how the brain processes sound to enable people to hear and communicate in noisy environments. Currently at the Bionics Institute in Melbourne, Australia, Litovsky collaborates on an imaging technique of infra-red spectroscopy to learn ways in which the brain tissue of deaf individuals responds to sound.

“The Fulbright scholarship provides an opportunity for exchange of ideas and collaboration,” says Litovsky. “My collaborations focus on hearing restoration, with the goal of using neuroimaging to understand the causes of variability across patients, so we can improve our clinical assessment and treatments.”

With this research, Litovsky hopes to advance the optical neuroimaging techniques as an innovative method to measure how the brains of CI users respond to stimulation before and after implantation. This approach will advance basic understanding in neurobiology and psychology, and will also improve clinical approaches for evaluation and treatment of people who are deaf.

“I hope to bring this technology to UW-Madison and the Waisman Center to launch multi-disciplinary collaborations. I also hope to continue the collaborations with my colleagues in Melbourne on a long-term basis,” says Litovsky.

Litovsky directs the Binaural Hearing and Speech Lab at the Waisman Center where her research focuses on the ability of humans to function in complex auditory environments. She studies hearing in children and adults with hearing loss and with typical hearing to understand how the brain determines the location and the content of important sounds. In particular, she focuses on people who are deaf and use cochlear implants (CIs) and evaluates binaural hearing (being able to integrate information that the brain receives from the two ears) in patients who have CIs in both ears. Binaural hearing is known to help with the ability to listen in noisy, complex auditory environments, and to localize sound sources. Litovsky’s lab demonstrated the impact of CI users with two (bilateral) CIs and, for children, having bilateral CIs at a young age offers unique advantages.

She holds a joint appointment in the Department of Surgery and Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and is a faculty member in the UW-Madison Neuroscience Training Program.

The Waisman Center, in partnership with the Department of Surgery, will host a community outreach event, Day with the Experts: Cochlear Implants, on May 30. Attendees will learn about the latest advances in research and clinical treatments and hear from a panel of experts including individuals with cochlear implants and family members. Presenters will include Litovsky, and Ray Goldsworthy, PhD.