Linking speech perception and phonology to reading disability via neural phase locking to speech

Language and reading development are intimately linked thanks to the role that phonology plays in spoken and written language. Phonological deficits likewise play a central role in developmental dyslexia. Here we examine how neural entrainment to speech, measured with electroencephalography (EEG), can provide novel insights into this relationship. We examined how EEG responses to speech relate to variability in reading and language scores, within a dataset of 713 children ages 5-18. Cerebro-acoustic phase coherence was used to quantify how well children’s EEG activity aligns to the speech contained in a 2.7 minute video. We found that neural tracking in the alpha band significantly predicted children’s reading ability, especially as it relates to nonword decoding in reading, as well as with nonword repetition, a measure of phonological short-term memory. In contrast, theta-band entrainment correlated with a separate set of oral language measures including vocabulary and grammatical development. The findings confirm the view that phase locking of neural signals to naturalistic, real-time speech is linked to language development, but also that different levels of information in the acoustic signal are used to support learning different types of these language and reading representations. Just as importantly, they suggest a way forward in understanding the link between language and reading disorders.

Monday, June 20, 2022

10:40 EDT
7:40 PDT, 8:40 MDT ,11:40 ADT,
15:40 BST

Dr. Marc Joanisse
Co-Lead of Computational Modeling
University of Western Ontario

Marc Joanisse is a Professor in Psychology and Brain and Mind at the University of Western Ontario. His research focuses on how experience and biology interact in the development of spoken language and reading, especially as it relates to dyslexia, bilingualism, and second language learning. He is Co-Lead of the Neuroimaging Core.

Dr. Christina Vanden Bosch der Nederlanden
Assistant Professor, Psychology
University of Toronto

Christina Vanden Bosch der Nederlanden is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga and director of the Language, Attention, Music, and Audition (LAMA) Lab. Her research explores how children and adults neurally track the rhythms of speech and song, considering how  musical and linguistic knowledge develops in parallel. 

Christine Moreau
PhD Student, The Brain and Mind Institute
Western University

Christine Moreau is a third year PhD student in psychology at The University of Western Ontario. Her research focuses on how children pick up patterns in language by using behavioural and neuroimaging measures. She is also a NextGen member of the training committee.