One of Canada’s most innovative neuroscientists is coming to Western to further her research into understanding human behaviour through speech, language and hearing.
Ingrid Johnsrude has been named a Western Research Chair, the first of its kind announced since the chairs were established last year in support of Western’s Clusters of Research Excellence program.
With research focused on diagnosing and treating health problems such as hearing impairment and brain disease in the aging and elderly, Johnsrude garnered international media attention last year for her investigation into the “cocktail party effect,” finding that seniors can exploit their familiarity with a loved one’s voice to compensate for hearing loss.
“Humans are very social creatures and language is what we use to communicate with each other,” Johnsrude explained. “For that reason, it’s absolutely critical that we understand how we communicate with each other with language if we want to understand humans and human behaviour.”
Johnsrude, who won an E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship in 2009 for her highly promising, globally relevant research, is jointly appointed as a professor at Western’s Faculty of Social Science and Faculty of Health Sciences. She will collaborate extensively with her new colleagues at Western’s world-renowned Brain and Mind Institute, Department of Psychology and the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders.
“We are absolutely thrilled that Ingrid is coming to Western,” said Melvyn Goodale, director, Brain and Mind Institute. “Ingrid is a first-rate neuroscientist and her collaborative approach will greatly strengthen links between the Brain and Mind Institute and other research centres on campus and around the world.”
“Ingrid brings a set of research skills that will help advance the international, world-class research being conducted in our School and in the National Centre for Audiology,” said J.B. Orange, director, School of Communication Sciences and Disorders. “Her research at Western will undoubtedly be a catalyst to multiple influential theoretical and clinical outcomes.”
Generating significant advancements in speech perception using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and more traditional auditory training and tracking tools, Johnsrude is heavily supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery Grant.
Johnsrude comes to Western from Queen’s University. She graduated from Queen’s with a BSc in Psychology and received an MSc and a PhD in Clinical Psychology from McGill University, where her thesis advisor was Brenda Milner – one of the founders of the field of cognitive neuroscience. Johnsrude has also held academic positions at University College London (UK) and the Medical Research Council (UK).