Postdoctoral Spotlight: Dana Boebinger, PhD

Apr. 25, 2024
Dana Boebinger, PhD, smiling with shoulder length wavy brown hair, green eyes, and a black shirt.
Dana Boebinger, PhD

Dana Boebinger, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow working in the lab of Samuel Norman-Haignere, PhD, at the University of Rochester Medical Center. She received her doctoral degree from Harvard University’s Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology program, her master’s degree in Cognitive Neuroscience from University College London as a Fulbright Scholar, and her undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Music at Florida State University. Her research focuses on how the human brain perceives and understands sounds like speech and music.

“As a musician, I’ve always been fascinated by sound and the profound effect it has on people,” said Boebinger. “I started college as a music therapy major, but quickly realized that I was more interested in the research behind questions like, “why can aphasia patients sometimes sing but not speak?” and “what is it about music that helps Parkinson’s patients walk steadily?” I started taking classes in psychology and neuroscience, and over several years I found that I had slowly morphed from a musician to a computational cognitive neuroscientist.”

Boebinger’s postdoctoral research primarily uses human intracranial recordings. She was recently awarded an F32 from the National Institutes of Health for research that aims to reveal how the brain integrates information about speech over time, in both silent and noisy environments. The Norman-Haignere lab collaborates with neurosurgeons and neurologists in the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit at URMC to work with patients who have been implanted with intracranial electrodes for clinical reasons. While these patients are in the hospital having their brain activity monitored to localize seizures, they can also to participate in research by listening to experimental stimuli like speech and music. This gives researchers the rare opportunity to record neural activity from inside the human brain. “The results of these experiments will further our knowledge of the computations that enable speech recognition in noisy real-world conditions, as well as how auditory cortex flexibly adapts to changing environments,” Boebinger said. “Answering these questions is a critical step towards understanding the deficits in listening in noise that are present in auditory neurodevelopmental and attention disorders.”

The Hearing and Balance Collective Journal Club that Boebinger co-leads has expanded her understanding of the complexity of the auditory system, exposing her to research she may not otherwise have come across. “The journal club gives me insight into these other levels of observation, and occasionally allows me to make connections to my own research that I otherwise would not have if I only read papers in my own niche field.”