Dr. Etter completed her PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences from the University of Kentucky in 2014.
Research overview: The ability to communicate effectively across the adult lifespan requires key elements such as voice, cognition, and speech motor control. Each of these key elements declines in its accuracy, efficiency, and/or quality with typical aging and is impacted by disease or disorder. Dr. Etter’s lab, Orofacial Physiology and Perceptual Analysis Lab (OPPAL) (https://sites.psu.edu/oppal/), primarily focuses on alterations in speech motor control across the adult life span. Speech motor control theories identify the bidirectional and reciprocal influences of movement and perception. Successful and accurate speech production requires people to be able to integrate multiple streams of sensory information. When talking (speech production or movement), speakers are constantly monitoring their speech accuracy for both what they hear (auditory) and how it feels (somatosensory). Deficits in auditory and/or somatosensory perceptual processing might negatively impact an older individuals’ ability to adapt to novel sensorimotor experiences and/or maintain learned skills. Although there is considerable research on how the auditory (hearing) system changes with aging or disease, less is known about the somatosensory system for speech. Current research in my lab uses objective measurements of lip and tongue point-pressure tactile sensation and speech samples to characterize the speech sensorimotor control relationship as well as identify how this relationship changes with age, disease, or in response to training.