Monica Wagner

Undergraduate Program CoordinatorAssociate Professor

Dr. Wagner is an Associate Professor in the department, Communication Sciences and Disorders, with a joint appointment in Psychology. She has received an M. A. in Speech-Language Pathology from Queens College of the City University of New York (CUNY) and an M. Phil. and Ph.D. in Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences from The Graduate Center (CUNY). Dr. Wagner is certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and licensed by New York State to practice as a Speech-Language Pathologist and to provide clinical services within the public schools.

Dr. Wagner’s research aims to uncover brain mechanisms that allow spoken words to be recognized within the auditory cortex for comprehension. Towards this end, she has examined cortical level brain responses within the electroencephalogram (EEG) in individuals having different native-language backgrounds (e.g., Polish speaker). This research has demonstrated that even though spoken words may be heard differently by second language learners of English, the acoustic (physical) characteristics of the spoken words are detected similarly, irrespective of native-language experience, at early cortical stages of processing. This occurs within the delta through alpha (oscillatory) frequency bands. In contrast, intermediate and late stages of cortical processing reflect native-language experiences. Further spectral analysis (brain activity at different oscillatory frequencies) of the EEG suggested particular neural mechanisms that enhance the acoustic signals that are commensurate with speech sound sequences experienced in one’s language. This was found in the low gamma frequency band at early cortical stages. Currently, Dr. Wagner is investigating neural processing of speech in adolescents with Specific Language Impairment and Dyslexia. The ultimate goal of this work is to understand deficits in novel-word learning in individuals with phonological processing deficits.

Graduate and undergraduate students from departments throughout the University participate in this research examining neurobiology of speech and language.

CSD 329 Neurobiology of Speech and Language

CSD 440 Advanced Research Design

CSD 1820 Neural Basis of Human Communication and Balance

Wagner, M., Ortiz-Mantilla, S., Rusiniak, M. Benasich, A. A, Shafer, V. L., Steinschneider, M. (under revision). Native-language experience with phonological sequences modulates phase coherence in the low-gamma and theta-alpha frequency bands. Scientific Reports.

Wagner, M., Lee, J., Mingino, F., O’Brien, C., Constantine, A., Shafer, V. L., Steinschneider, M. (2017). Language experience with a native-language phoneme sequence modulates the effects of attention on cortical sensory processing" Frontiers in Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience. Frontiers in Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience, 11, https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2017.00569

Wagner, M., Shafer, V. L., Haxhari, E., Kiprovsky, K., Blankemeier, K., Griffiths, T. (2017). Stability of the cortical sensory waveforms, the P1-N1-P2 and T-complex, of the auditory evoked potentials. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 60, 2105-2115.

Wagner, M., Roychoudhury, A., Campanelli, L., Shafer, V. L., Martin, B., Steinschneider, M. (2016). Representaton of spectro-temporal features of spoken words within the P1-N1-P2 and T-complex of the auditory evoked potentials (AEP). Neuroscience Letters, 614, 119-126.

Shafer V. L., Yu, Y. H., Wagner M. (2015). Maturation of neural indices of speech processing: T-complex. International Journal of Psychophysiology, Special Issue on Auditory Processing, 95, 77-93.

Wagner, M., Shafer, V. L., Martin, B., Steinschneider, M. (2013). The effect of native-language experience on the sensory-obligatory components, the P1-N1-P2 and the T-complex. Brain Research, 1522, 31-37.

Wagner M., Shafer V. L., Martin, B., Steinschneider, M. (2012). The phonotactic influence on perception of a consonant cluster /pt/ by native-English and native-Polish listeners: A behavioral and event-related potential (ERP) study. Brain and Language,123, 30-41.

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Neuroscience Research Group

Electrophysiology Research Lab

St. John’s University, Marillac Hall, SB15

Dr. Wagner conducts research to uncover brain mechanisms that allow spoken words to be recognized and maintained within auditory cortex for comprehension. Each spoken word that travels to the ear within sound waves contains unique characteristics that are transmitted to the auditory cortex and beyond. Some acoustic signals within the auditory pathway are enhanced, which streamlines processing for language comprehension.

Wagner and colleagues have identified brain wave patterns within the auditory evoked potentials (AEP) that reflect recognition of acoustic characteristics of speech (Wagner et al., 2013; 2016) and these patterns are consistent with or without attention directed to the stimuli (Wagner et al., 2017, Frontiers in Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience; Wagner et al., 2017, Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research). These patterns can be used to identify atypical acoustic-processing of speech within auditory cortex. In a recent study (Wagner et al., under review), our group demonstrated that early cortical stage (acoustic-level) processing of speech occurs within the delta through alpha (oscillatory) frequency bands. In contrast, the results suggested that enhancement of acoustic signals commensurate with speech sounds sequences experienced in one’s language (phonological-level processing) occur within the low-gamma frequency band through phase coherence (coordination of neural excitability). Whether atypical language learners exhibit these processes, which may streamline neural processing of speech and language, is an important question for future research.

Neural Speech Processing in Typical and Atypical Language Learners

We are currently using EEG and behavioral measures to assess cortical processing of speech in adolescents with Specific Language Impairment, Dyslexia and in adolescents with SLI and comorbid Dyslexia.

Asymmetry of the Anterior Cingulate Cortex and Inhibitory Control

Speech and language processing is predominant in the left hemisphere of the brain. The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) has been associated with attention and executive control networks in the frontal lobe. The ACC is accompanied by an anterior paracingulate cortex (PCC) in only the left hemisphere of the brain in a majority of adults.  In a collaboration with Dr. Eve Higby (California State University, East Bay), a group of California State University students and St. John’s University students are measuring the target structures on MRI scans and assessing the association between the ACC asymmetry and performance on cognitive tasks of inhibition in younger and older adult subjects.

Wagner, M. Ortiz-Mantilla, S., Shafer, V. L., Benasich, A. A. (August 20, 2019)

Neurobiology of Language Conference “Native-language experience reflected in low gamma, theta and delta frequency bands.” Neurobiology of Language, Helsinki, Finland. Poster presentation

Wagner, M. Ortiz-Mantilla, S., Shafer, V. L., Benasich, A. A. (November 6, 2018)

Society for Neuroscience Conference “Spectro-temporal processing of consonant clusters in theta and high gamma in native-English and native-Polish bilingual adults.” Society for Neuroscience, San Diego, CA. Poster presentation

Wagner, M., Lee, J., Shafer, V. L. (March 25, 2017)

Cognitive Neuroscience Society Conference "The effects of attention modulation on sensory processing of spoken words in native-English and native-Polish listeners" Cognitive Neuroscience Society, San Francisco, CA. Poster presentation

Wagner, M. (September 15, 2016)

Haskins Laboratories “Spectral and temporal feature processing of the spoken word reflected within the cortical sensory waveforms of the auditory evoked potentials (AEPs): Clinical application” Haskins Laboratories, Yale University, New Haven, CT. Invited Speaker

Yu, Y. H., Kamowski-Shakiba, M., Wagner, M., Shafer, V. L. (April 2, 2016)

Cognitive Neuroscience Society Conference "Infant Mismatch Responses to Speech: The Interplay Between Language and Attention" Cognitive Neuroscience Society, New York, NY. Poster presentation

Shafer, V. L., Yu, Y. H., Wagner, M. (April 3, 2016)

Cognitive Neuroscience Society Conference "Neural Responses to Vowel Stimuli in Monolingual and Bilingual 3-to 46-Month-Old Children" Cognitive Neuroscience Society, New York, NY. Poster Presentation

Wagner, M., O'Brian, C., Mingino, F., Haxhari, E., Hejazi, Z., Shafer, V. L. (April 3, 2016)

Cognitive Neuroscience Society Conference "Stability of the P1-N1-P2 and T-Complex of the Auditory Evoked Potentials (AEP) to Natural Speech in Individual Subjects" Cognitive Neuroscience Society, New York, NY, Poster presentation

Wagner, M., Lee, J., Shafer, V. L. (January 4, 2016)

Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience Society Conference "The effects of attention on the cortical sensory components, P1-N1-P2 and T-complex in native English and native Polish listeners" Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience Society Conference, Tucson, AZ. Poster presentation

Higby, E., Wagner, M., Gwinner, A., Rinker, T., Shafer, V. L. (September 11, 2015)

7th Mismatch Negativity Conference "The Influence of Acoustic-Phonetics on the Processing of Complex Consonant onsets" Leipzig, Germany. Poster presentation

Wagner, M., Shafer, V. L. (April 5-8, 2014)

Cognitive Neuroscience Society Conference “Representation of spectro-temporal features of fricative and stop-consonant word onsets within the sensory auditory-evoked potentials (AEPs) using single trial analysis” Cognitive Neuroscience Society, Boston, MA. Poster presentation

Wagner, M. ,Shafer, V. L. (November 6-8, 2013)

Society for Neurobiology of Language Conference “Representation of spectro-temporal features of fricative and stop-consonant word onsets within the sensory auditory-evoked potentials (AEPs), the P1-N1-P2 and T-complex, in individual listeners” Society for Neurobiology of Language, San Diego, CA. Poster presentation

Wagner, M., Shafer, V. L. (January 16-18, 2013)

CUNY Conference on the Feature in Phonology and Phonetics “The effect of exposure to the contextual feature of the /pt/ onset cluster in native-English and native-Polish listeners” CUNY Conference on the Feature in Phonology and Phonetics, New York, NY. Speaker