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Centre for Neuroscience in Education


BabyRhythm Project

Oscillatory Rhythmic Entrainment and the Foundations of Language Acquisition

In 2016 Professor Usha Goswami was awarded an ERC Advanced Grant by the European Research Council to examine neural rhythmic processing in early language development. Language lies at the heart of our experience as humans and disorders of language acquisition have severe developmental costs. Studying how the typically-developing brain processes rhythm from the “get-go”, across the senses of hearing, vision and limb movement, should eventually help us to improve language learning for all children across all languages.

The ‘BabyRhythm’ project builds on recent results in auditory neuroscience which show that speech processing depends on brain wave rhythms aligning to rhythms in speech. To learn language, the infant brain needs to learn to align to the rhythms produced when we talk. Nursery rhymes are an optimal rhythmic input for the developing brain. The BabyRhythm project is exploring the developing relationship between brain and speech rhythms and language acquisition over the first 2.5 years of life.

Participation in the project involves eight separate brain imaging sessions using EEG during the first year of life, followed by language assessments at 12, 15, 18, 24, 30 and 42 months. The brain scans reveal markers of auditory, visual and motor responses to language, as well as the precision of rhythmic movements. The language assessments comprise game-like activities with the child in order to measure the development of vocabulary, phonology and grammar / syntax. The participants’ guardians are also asked to fill out questionnaires on developmental milestones such as the CDI and CCT, and to report on the development of their child’s language skills, including multilingual abilities.

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