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Blumberg honored with MERIT Award
DeLTA Center member Mark Blumberg has been honored with a MERIT Award from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) for his research on the function of sleep in neural development, becoming only the second faculty member in Iowa's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to ever receive this award.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) founded the MERIT—Method to Extend Research in Time—Awards program in 1987 to provide long-term support to researchers with impressive records of scientific achievement in promising research areas, sparing them from having to constantly devote time and staff resources to applying for research grants. NIH-funded researchers must be nominated for the MERIT Award by their funding NIH institute. Less than five percent of principal investigators with major research grants are selected to receive it.

Duff research shows hippocampus involved in language processing
Research conducted by Melissa Duff and her colleagues makes a connection between the hippocampus and language processing. The hippocampus has long been recognized for its role in forming long-term memories. Current research, however, is moving away from the idea of localization of function, instead subscribing to the belief that multiple brain areas work together to contribute to complex behavior, be it forming memories or language development.

"Some of the most critical aspects of being able to use language include the ability to bind together pieces of information and hold onto that information while talking or listening," said Duff, the paper's senior author. "The hippocampus has long been known for its role in relational binding, and more recently for its role in online information processing. With these two roles, it makes sense that the hippocampus would be critically involved in using and processing language."

Additional details are featured in the May 27, 2014, edition of Iowa Now.

Hourcade pens book about technologies for children
DeLTA Center member Juan Pablo Hourcade has authored a forthcoming book, Designing Technologies for Children. Hourcade hopes his book will help people to update some of the research on which their work is implicitly based.

“In the child-computer interaction field, people still refer to developmental psychology theories that are pretty old, like Piaget,” he says. More relevant and contemporary work, however, comes from theorists working on embodiment, connectionism, and dynamic state theories, all of which bridge what we know about neuroscience with development. These theories, says Hourcade, posit that development does not occur in isolation in the brain, but rather is the result of interactions among the brain, body, and environment.

Hourcade is self-publishing the book, which he hopes will be available later this year, in order to share it free of charge.

Additional details are available on the Obermann Center website.

Scenes from DeLTA Day 2014

delta day delta day
DeLTA Day, a celebration of ideas and research reflecting the diverse range of DeLTA Center work and interests, was held May 1, 2014, at the University of Iowa Athletic Hall of Fame. In addition to research talks, students presented their work in a poster competition. Winners of the $100 prizes were: Jonathan Schacherer, best undergraduate poster; Maura Curran, best graduate poster; and Alexandre Tiriac, best explanation of science.

What do pigeons have to do with it?
DeLTA Center members Bob McMurray (Principal Investigator), Ed Wasserman, and Karla McGregor were recently informed that their grant proposal will be funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development. Their project, investigating animal learning and human word learning, ties together previous research in Psychology and in Communication Sciences and Disorders.

This project will continue to develop a pigeon model to confirm the role of pruning associations between a category and incorrect responses. Parallel experiments with both typically developing young adults and young adults with LLD will explore the implications of this animal model for humans and determine their relevance to language impairment.

In commenting on the relevance of project, McMurray said, “by understanding the basic mechanisms of how individuals with LLD learn language, we may be able to understand some of the causal factors that give rise to this disorder and develop effective teaching tools and therapies to help them learn language.”

Additional details are available on the Iowa Now website.

Plumert, O'Neal publish child safety article
Jodie Plumert and Elizabeth O'Neal published a new study in which they looked at how children take stock of various real-life scenarios, and how mothers can help them assess potential hazards. Their conclusions: Children and mothers regularly do not see eye-to-eye on situational dangers. Because of that, it is critical that mothers explain why a situation is dangerous, beyond simply administering a verbal slap on the wrist. The paper was published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology. For more information about the Plumert's and O'Neal's work, see an article published on the Iowa Now website.

Curtu awarded NSF conference grant
Rodica Curtu was awarded a National Science Foundation conference grant to organize "Nonlinear dynamics and stochastic methods: from neuroscience to other biological applications." The conference, held March 10-12, was in Pittsburgh. Additional details are available on the UI Mathematics homepage.

Ed Wasserman honored by the CCS
Ed Wasserman has been awarded the 2015 Research Award from the Comparative Cognition Society. The CCS Research Award honors scientists who have made major contributions to our understanding of animal cognition during their career. Congratulations Ed!

Linebarger awarded Sesame Workshop grant
Deb Linebarger was awarded a grant from the Sesame Workshop for a research study to see if a music video featuring Cookie Monster impacts children's self-regulation. She will observe children in three groups. One will watch a set of clips showing Cookie Monster practicing delayed gratification. The second group will watch clips that do not demonstrate delayed gratification. The third group will not watch any clips. Linebarger and her team will then test to see if the children from each group are able to practice delayed gratification.

“These skills are critical for school readiness because a formal school situation requires that children control impulses, follow directions, transit smoothly between activities, and focus on relevant task information,” Linebarger says. “These skills also predict other academic skills including reading, math, and science."

Additional details are available on the Iowa Now website; a direct link to the Cookie Monster video is on YouTube.

Hazeltine, McMurray engage with local educators
DeLTA Center members Eliot Hazeltine and Bob McMurray discussed research aimed at understanding how children learn at a public forum for parents, teachers and school district officials December 9 at the Iowa City Public Library. DeLTA Center advisors Carolyn Brown and Jerry Zimmermann, founders of Foundations in Learning, also presented the research.

A goal is to share with teachers principles about how their pupils learn, McMurray explained. Also, the new research can help educate American students more effectively.

"Everybody’s talking about how to change education, and mostly what they’re talking about is how to change what we teach, and they’re not really thinking about how kids learn,” he said.

Additional details are available in an article in the December 10, 2013, edition of the Daily Iowan.

Samuelson, Perry publication: "Messy eaters make better word learners"
Let them play with their food; it's good for your baby. That's the message from new research by Lynn Perry and Larissa Samuelson. Their research looked at how 16-month-old children learn words for nonsolid objects, from oatmeal to glue.

Previous research has shown that toddlers learn more readily about solid objects because they can easily identify them due to their unchanging size and shape. But the more manipulative substances create bigger challenges. New research shows that changes if you put toddlers in a setting they know well. In familiar instances, word learning increases, because children at that age are “used to seeing nonsolid things in this context, when they’re eating,” says Samuelson. “And, if you expose them to these things when they’re in a highchair, they do better. They're familiar with the setting and that helps them remember and use what they already know about nonsolids.”

Their paper was published in the journal Developmental Science.

Listen to a radio interview in which Samuelson describes their findings (mp3 file). This research was also featured on Academic Minute on the Inside Higher Ed website.

Wu, O'Neal win dissertation grants
Zhen Wu has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation to support her dissertation research, "Doctoral Dissertation Research: How Does Pointing Facilitate Word Learning?" Her research will address how and why pointing influences young children’s word learning in real-time contexts. Wu is working under the supervision of Julie Gros-Louis.

Elizabeth O'Neal was selected to receive the American Psychological Foundation's Lizette Peterson Homer Memorial Injury Research Grant. The grant supports research into psychological and behavioral aspects of the prevention of injuries in children and adolescents. This grant will support O'Neal's research project titled, "Mother-Child Communication about Safety in Low-Income Families." O'Neal is working under the supervision of Jodie Plumert.

Putt awarded grant
Shelby Putt, a Delta Center graduate student member, was awarded an Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students research award. The monies will be used to further her research in the CHILDS facility. Congratulations Shelby!

Researcher of “Mad Genius” Visits DeLTA Center


During the week of October 21, 2013, Dr. Dean Simonton, a distinguished professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis, shared his expertise with faculty and students at the University of Iowa as part of the Ida Cornelia Beam Visiting Distinguished Professor Program.

Dr. Simonton describes his research as “[the] cognitive, dispositional, developmental, and sociocultural factors behind eminence, giftedness, and talent.” That is to say, he studies the characteristics and accomplishments of renowned intellects in the fields of science, philosophy, literature, music, art, cinema, politics, and war.

Dr. Simonton’s visit was sponsored by the DeLTA Center, the Blank-Belin Honors Center, the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, the College of Liberal Arts, and the Department of Psychology. (by Ellen Heywood and Matt Bailey)

Rope or Wope?
Word-Learning Researcher Visits DeLTA Center

holly storkel

IOWA CITY, Iowa – The DeLTA Center hosted Holly L. Storkel for a roundtable discussion on Friday, October 25.

Dr. Storkel, an associate professor at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, and the director of the Word and Sound Learning Lab, met with DeLTA members to discuss how developing children learn the words and sounds of language. Dr. Storkel also shared ideas for her current research on children’s recognition of misarticulated words such as ‘wope’ for ‘rope’ and received feedback from DeLTA members. Her visit marks the fifth roundtable presentation hosted by the DeLTA Center this semester.

Dr. Storkel’s research focuses on how children build vocabulary by examining the acquisition, organization, and processing of novel words and known words. (by Matt Bailey)

Josh Bongard presents Evodevorobo to the Delta Center


IOWA CITY, Iowa – The DeLTA Center hosted roboticist Josh Bongard for a roundtable discussion this past Friday morning. 

Dr. Bongard, an associate professor at the University of Vermont and the winner of a prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, met with DeLTA members to discuss how principles of evolution and development lead to the design of better robots.  And, in turn, how these discoveries in robotics lead to new hypotheses about mechanisms of learning and development. 

Dr. Bongard’s research highlights some of the advantages of the evolutionary developmental robotics approach (also known as “evodevorobo”).  What’s more, his research incorporates Internet-based tools that allow Internet users and, in particular, students to assist in the designing of robots using crowdsourcing.

The roundtable discussion was followed by Dr. Bongard’s public presentation on the same topic, which was hosted on the University of Iowa campus and sponsored by the DeLTA Center, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Department of Psychology, and the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. (by Matt Bailey)

Fritzsch honored with mentoring award
Bernd Fritzsch, an affilate member of the Delta Center, was one of three professors at Iowa to be honored by the National Academy of Sciences. Fritzsch, professor and head of the Department of Biology, was named a National Academies Education Mentor in the Life Sciences.

Brown, Zebrowski featured on KGAN-TV
Tricia Zebrowski and Bryan Brown were featured on KGAN-TV, discussing their research and clinical work with those who stutter. Missed the October 2nd broadcast? The feature is available on-line. Brown, Zebrowski and others are raising awareness about stuttering at a Friends Conference in Des Moines October 5.

Studying how children retain what they see
Research conducted by Aaron Buss and John Spencer was featured in a June 26, 2013, Iowa Now article. In the piece, the researchers explain how optical neuroimaging allows them to quantify how much 3- and 4-year-old children are grasping when they survey what's around them and to learn what areas of the brain are in play. “This is literally the first look into a 3 and 4-year-old's brain in action in this particular working memory task,” said Spencer. The pair's recently-published paper appears in the journal NeuroImage.

Van Horne awarded clinical research grant
Amanda Van Horne received a $75,000 grant from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation. This clinical research grant supports scientists with a research doctorate to carry out investigations that will advance knowledge of the efficacy of treatment and assessment practices in communication sciences and disorders. Dr. Van Horne’s research examines how the particular examples used in intervention influences how well children learning grammatical targets. Language impairments affect approximately 7% of the population and can have long-term influences on reading, academic achievement, employment, and social outcomes.

Wasserman research highlighted Research by Ed Wasserman shows that pigeons have far better problem solving skills than previously thought and can use a computer touchscreen. Results show the birds are capable of making highly intelligent choices, sometimes with problem-solving skills to match. | Full article at the website of the Daily Mail.