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| Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2003, 12:00 p.m.

Connie A. Tompkins

Age: 49

Residence: O'Hara

Family: Husband, Richard Schulz, 55, a social gerontology researcher at the University of Pittsburgh

Occupation: Professor of communication science and disorders at Pitt's School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

Background: Tompkins received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Illinois State University and her doctorate from the University of Washington in speech and hearing sciences in 1984. She worked as a researcher at a veterans hospital in Portland, Ore., before coming to Pitt in 1986.

Noteworthy: Tompkins recently received a $1.2 million grant from the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communications Disorders to study language comprehension problems in stroke victims who have suffered right hemisphere brain damage. Stroke patients with right-brain damage often have difficulty comprehending the intended meaning of spoken words with multiple meanings, such as jokes or figures of speech. For many years, researchers thought the brain's left side controlled language comprehension, but Tompkins' grant will allow research on theories about the importance of the right brain in understanding the nuances of language.

Quote: "In this grant, we'll test our theory against several other competing accounts of these difficulties. Importantly, the results should lead to an improved communication evaluation and intervention for adults with right hemisphere brain damage."

-- By Glenn May

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