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Last modified: Friday, April 13, 2012

David Pisoni

Distinguished Professor

Distinguished Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Cognitive Science and Chancellor's Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Cognitive Science
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
College of Arts and Sciences
University Graduate School
Indiana University Bloomington
Appointed to IU faculty, 1971
B.A., Queens College of the City University of New York, 1968
Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1971

According to Robert Shannon, it's a wonder that David Pisoni is just now becoming a distinguished professor at Indiana University. Shannon, the director of the Communication and Auditory Neuroscience Division at House Research Institute, has known Pisoni for 30 years and credits him with the growth of important research documenting the correlation between the ear and brain in children's development.

"Throughout his career, Dave has made enormously significant contributions in basic, applied and clinical research in areas of speech and language processing," write Distinguished Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences Robert M. Nosofsky and Distinguished Professor and Chair of Psychological and Brain Sciences Linda B. Smith. "He has trained multiple generations of undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral research fellows ... and received prestigious national and international awards in recognition of his many contributions."

In 2006, his students and colleagues held a "Pisonifest" in his honor, a two-day scientific conference that paid tribute to his remarkable contributions in the area of cochlear implants. Shannon calls Pisoni "an important creative influence in auditory perception" and credits Pisoni's research for crucial discoveries about the effects of deafness on visual memory and recall, as well as the importance of sensory input for brain development.

Pisoni has led groundbreaking studies of deficits in cross-modal sensory integration in deaf and hearing-impaired children, an issue that, Shannon says, "has major implications for using residual hearing to supplement lip-reading [as well as for the] rehabilitation and training of hearing-impaired children."

Gerard O'Donoghue, co-director of the National Biomedical Research Unit in Hearing at Queen's Medical Centre in the United Kingdom, speaks of Pisoni as a "tireless researcher whose lifetime work is unrivalled in bringing together the disparate fields of neuroscience, cognitive psychology and developmental neuropsychology to illuminate the effects of auditory deprivation on brain development." Further, O'Donoghue attests that Pisoni's work exemplifies the way laboratory research can affect clinical practice: "David stands out among all his peers by virtue of the sheer brilliance of his research and the elegance with which he has undertaken it."

Equally impressive is Pisoni's record of more than 350 publications. He also brings much to the department with his skill as a journal editor and grant review panel member.

Richard N. Aslin, director of the Rochester Center for Brain Imaging, writes that Pisoni "has made seminal contributions to many different subfields in speech communication and guided the development of many graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty." His research and scholarship are revered in the field, and, in some cases, have opened new avenues to arenas of specialization. Pisoni's work has been essential in shaping the current way auditory word recognition and lexical processing are understood.

Pisoni's scholarship has been internationally recognized with such prestigious awards as a Guggenheim Fellowship, two active National Institutes of Health research grants and the Silver Medal from the Acoustical Society of America, an award granted to less than 1 percent of its nominees.

In addition to the two NIH research grants supporting basic and clinical research programs, Pisoni also directs an NIH T32 training grant that has supported over 65 postdocs and more than 30 graduate students who have come to Indiana to work with Pisoni and participating core faculty from psychological and brain sciences, linguistics, speech and hearing science, neuroscience, and cognitive science in Bloomington, and otolaryngology and psychiatry at the IU School of Medicine in Indianapolis. It is the largest T32 training grant in the NIH National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders portfolio, with six postdoctoral lines, six predoctoral lines and six summer medical student lines. Entering its 34th year, it is also the longest-running training grant in National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders history.

Pisoni's students are quick to attest to his capabilities as a mentor. Many of his former students are now successful professionals in their respective fields and attribute much of their achievement to Pisoni's profound influence. Emily Tobey, who worked with Pisoni during her doctoral studies at Haskins Laboratories, says the breadth of Pisoni's career interests, combined with his deep knowledge and seminal contributions to the realm of psychology and speech and hearing sciences, testify to his position as a global figure with "an extraordinary portfolio of work."

Lynne Nygaard, professor of psychology at Emory University, studied with Pisoni as a postdoctoral trainee. Nygaard says that the strength of the NIH's training program in speech, language and cognition has been the result of Pisoni's "extraordinary vision, organization, support and leadership as the director of the program and as a mentor and collaborator. David has always led his team of collaborators and trainees, providing scaffolding, resources and mentoring at all levels, from training in basic science to the ethical conduct of research to professionalization."

This sense of leadership, manifested in the highest level of research and professionalization, continues to set apart such distinguished professors at Indiana University as David Pisoni.