The Victorian Deaf Education Institute recently hosted two workshops presented by Professor Anu Sharma on plasticity, development and reorganisation of central auditory system in children with hearing loss and its implications for teachers (25 July 2012) and audiologists (27 July 2012).
Dr Anu Sharma is one of the foremost researchers in the area of ANSD. She is a Professor in the Dept. of Speech Language and Hearing, Centre for Neuroscience and the Institute for Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is also an adjunct professor at the Dept. of Otolaryngology at University of Colorado Health Sciences Centre and at the University of Texas at Dallas, Callier Centre for Communication Disorders.
The two day presentation in the VDEI Learning Centre provided the opportunity for both audiologists and teachers to be exposed to the latest research in the field of neuroplasticity and to explore the implication of these findings at a clinical and school level.
Dr Sharma discussed neuroplasticity, that is the brain’s ability to change in structure and function in response to environmental input. By outlining normal cortical development necessary to ensure the development of normal speech and oral language skills, Professor Sharma explored possible changes in the brain structure if the brain does not receive input in the form of auditory signals. Of particular interest to many participants was the information provided about Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder (ANSD) and both the clinical and classroom implications. Recent estimates suggest that between 10-15% of all children with sensorineural hearing loss have some form of ANSD.
This stimulating, highly interactive presentation provided the opportunity for practitioners to discuss cases directly with Dr Sharma and gave professionals many insights into treatment and habilitation for these students and/or clients. There was also discussion around the fact that newborns’ brains triple in size in the first year and that once neural pathways are developed at a stable level in early childhood, they remain in place.
The workshop also exposed participants to emerging research including the use of drugs which enhance plasticity by increasing the number of neurotransmitters, the strong link between exercise and cognitive plasticity and the latest research on the sensitive period for brain development.
The knowledge, expertise and experiences of Dr Sharma provided invaluable insights for those working in the field.
“Excellent and engaging presentation. Very informative and interesting research presented passionately,” said Emma May, audiologist.
Marnie Petersen, audiologist at Australian Hearing said: “I feel I will have a better ability to deal with parental enquiries on cochlear implantation, unilateral versus bilateral cochlear implantation and auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder.”
“Thank you for an excellent and well organised event”, said Robyn Phillips, Program Manager & Early Intervention Auditory-Verbal Therapist at the Cora Barclay Centre, “It was a treat!”