Understanding the mechanisms of language comprehension
BY RESEARCH FEATURES ON NOVEMBER 22, 2016
Dr Julie A Van Dyke, a senior research scientist in the field of psycholinguistics at Haskins Laboratories, Connecticut, USA, is helping to unravel the mechanisms underlying language comprehension, including the processes that lead to poor understanding when reading or listening.
Language comprehension is one of the most automatic tasks that humans perform. Yet it is also one of the most complex, requiring the simultaneous integration of many different types of information, such as knowledge about letters and their sounds, spelling, grammar, word meanings, and general world knowledge. In addition, general cognitive abilities such as attention monitoring, inferencing, and memory retrieval are used in order to organise this information into a single meaningful representation.
Ecological Psychology Publishes Special Edition Honoring Dr. Carol A. Fowler
From the Abstract:
This article includes both an introduction to the special issue and discussion of our connections with Carol Fowler. We briefly review the motivation for the special issue and reflect upon the ways that she has impacted us and science more generally.
Dedicating a special issue of Ecological Psychology to the work and influence of Carol Fowler hardly needs justification. Her impact on Ecological Psychology and, more broadly, the fields of speech and reading research are clear even to those who do not belong to any of these communities. But Fowler’s scientific contributions, which are numerous and directly motivate the articles in this issue, are only part of what compelled us to put this issue together. In large part, we wanted to recognize Fowler’s influence on us and many other scientists.
Associate Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and UCSF BrainLENS director Fumiko Hoeft, MD, PhD, will be featured as a speaker at the upcoming TEDxSausalito conference. Her presentation, "Dyslexia, Learning Differently, and Innovation - Is There a Causal Link?” will be part of an afternoon colloqium exploring how and why creativity is a catalyst for change. Hoeft's talk will focus on recent research on the heightened prevalence of dyslexia among entrepreneurs and consider explanations from a neuroscientific perspective on how individuals with dyslexia may possess superior skills such as resilience and spatial skills. « Read the Press Release »
We All Speed-Read.
The brain doesn’t sound out words it already knows, a new study shows.
By Roni Jacobson | Scientific American September 2016 Issue.
When children first learn to read, they painstakingly sound out every letter—C-A-T—before mentally stringing them together and connecting the result to a word and its meaning. With practice, however, we begin to recognize words on sight. In fact, our brain compiles a visual dictionary that is housed in the rear temporal lobe, adjacent to the area that recognizes faces, according to a new study published in Neuroimage. This dictionary eventually supersedes the responsibilities of the brain's phonics center, the researchers say, and is critical to becoming an advanced reader. « Read the Article »
a view of science policy from inside the White House.
A Staff talk presented by Philip Rubin, Ph.D.
View Dr. Rubin's talk below and the Powerpoint Presentation here.
Oral Histories and Transcriptions
Alan Cooper, Alice Dadourian, Arthur Abramson, Carol Fowler, Craig Cooper, Donald Shankweiler, Kathy Harris, Len Katz, Lloyd Morrisett, Maxine Singer, Michael Studdert-Kennedy, Michael Turvey, Phil Rubin, Cyrus Bacchi, Stuart L. Marcus and Nigel Yarlett. Go to Haskins Oral History.
Haskins Laboratories Post-doctoral Fellow Kaja Jasinska receives 3 year Fellowship from the Jacobs Foundation
Haskins Laboratories Post-doctoral Fellow Kaja Jasinska has received a 3 year Fellowship from the Jacobs Foundation Early Career Research Fellowship for a project entitled Promoting Literacy Development in Children in Rural Cocoa Producing Communities. Children living in poverty grow up facing numerous obstacles to literacy, including biological (e.g., poor nutrition, disease), environmental (e.g., limited time and/or resources dedicated to learning, impoverished learning environments), and even political (e.g., inadequate education resources, education policies that disadvantage certain groups of children). In many rural cocoa-producing communities, the age at which a child enters formal schooling can vary considerably depending on the availability of funds and need for child labor. Therefore, a primary school classroom in a rural community can have students that range widely in age and who have had inconsistent and sporadic access to reading instruction and faced with the added challenge of learning to read in a new language (e.g., official language French), different from their community language. The focus of the research fellowship is to address the effects of poverty on typical reading development, specifically using the latest tools of cognitive science to measure the impact of diverse learning environments (e.g., different local versus teaching languages, varied age of first literacy instruction) on a child’s ability to acquire literacy. The overall objective is to improve understanding of the cognitive and brain basis of learning in poverty with the specific aim of providing classroom-implementable solutions that optimize children’s literacy and cognitive development in early life and promote sustainable life-long learning. How do we best support literacy in a multilingual learning environment? What program of first reading instruction works best for a child who begins learning to read at age 6 versus 10 or even later and who may have missed multiple years of schooling? This information is critical for the development of new insights into optimal reading instruction in resource-poor classrooms, bridging child development with education policy. The research project is taking place in the Ivory Coast.
“Our study’s uniqueness,” says lead author Fumiko Hoeft, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, “is that we’re the first one to get the whole family and scan both parents and offspring to look at how similar their brain networks are. We can tell, even though the genetics are more complicated than we originally thought, who we got our eye color from. And we joke about inheriting stubbornness or organization—but we’ve never actually seen that in human brain networks before. [This research] was a proof of impact, of using a new design that has significant potential.”
We often attribute key characteristics to one of our parents: “He gets his athleticism from his father.” “Her quickness to anger—that’s all her mother.” Whether the genetics are actually pulling the strings in these cases is another story. But a growing body of research has suggested that heredity does apply to mood disorders—including depression, which afflicts more than 2.8 million adolescents in the U.S. alone—and that there is compelling evidence hereditary ties are strong between mothers and daughters. « Read the Article In Scientific American »
Brain Structure Governing Emotion Is Passed Down From Mother To Daughter, Says UCSF Study
Research Is First Evidence That Brain Structure Implicated In Depression May Be Inherited
A study of 35 families led by a UC San Francisco psychiatric researcher showed for the first time that the structure of the brain circuitry known as the corticolimbic system is more likely to be passed down from mothers to daughters than from mothers to sons or from fathers to children of either gender.
The corticolimbic system governs emotional regulation and processing and plays a role in mood disorders, including depression.
A large body of human clinical research indicates a strong association in depression between mothers and daughters, while many previous animal studies have shown that female offspring are more likely than males to show changes in emotion-associated brain structures in response to maternal prenatal stress. Until now, however, there have been few studies that attempted to link the two streams of research, said lead author Fumiko Hoeft, MD, PhD, a UCSF associate professor of psychiatry.« Read the Study at University of California San Francisco
This Week in Psychological Science
The link below will take you to the journal article:
The ability to process spoken language serves as a scaffold on which children can learn to process written language. In this study, the authors examined whether convergent activation for print and speech in areas of the brain involved in printed-language processing predict later reading achievement. Children between the ages of 6 and 10 were assessed for reading skill and they performed a picture-identification task while fMRI data were collected. Two years later, children were again assessed for reading skills. The researchers found that patterns of activation in the bilateral inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) -- an area of the brain involved in phonological coding for speech and print -- predicted reading achievement. More coactivation in the left IFG predicted better reading achievement and greater coactivation in the right IFG predicted poorer reading achievement.
Between the ears: In the brain, Chinese and English are more similar than they look on paper
By John Higgins, Seattle Times education reporter.
“The principles by which reading is built into the brain are far more similar than dissimilar across languages and that has clear implications for how you teach reading and how you remediate disorders of reading,” said Kenneth Pugh, a co-author on the paper.
We’re not born with the brain circuitry we need for reading. We have to be taught.
Specifically, beginning readers learn to sound out words by matching what they see to what they say.
As reading becomes more effortless, the brain forms efficient circuitry linking the visual system to the speech centers in the left hemisphere.
Haskins President Ken Pugh, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, New Haven School Superintendent Garth Harries and other appointees attend the City Hall Press Conference announcing the launch of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Reading.
Posted: 11/24/15. Harris hopes students across the district can develop a similar relationship with reading that he did as a child. This task is now in the hands of a blue ribbon commission on reading, which Harries helped introduce Tuesday at City Hall with Mayor Toni Harp. The 39-member commission aims to help the city strengthen student reading comprehension and appreciation for reading among its residents. « Read the article at the New Haven Register »
Learning & the Brain® Presented the “2015 Transforming Education Through Neuroscience Award” at Its Educational Conference in Boston on Sunday
Posted on November 16, 2015.Learning & the Brain presented Dr. Fumiko Hoeft from the University of California, San Francisco with the “2015 Transforming Education Through Neuroscience Award” for her contributions to bridging the gap between brain research and classroom practice during the Learning & the Brain educational conference in Boston, MA..
Learning & the Brain presented Dr. Fumiko Hoeft from the University of California, San Francisco with the “2015 Transforming Education Through Neuroscience Award” this past Sunday. Dr. Hoeft is a groundbreaking researcher whose research lies at the intersection of education and cognitive neuroscience was awarded the eighth annual prize for “Transforming Education Through Neuroscience.” The $2,500 award was established to honor individuals who represent excellence in bridging neuroscience and education and is funded by the Learning & the Brain Foundation. « Read the News Release »
‘Listening to Faces’ examines communication skills of kids with autism
NEW HAVEN — Most of us look at our companion’s face when they’re speaking.
“There’s a lot of information on the face, not just identity,” explains Haskins Scientist Julia Irwin, an associate professor of psychology at Southern Connecticut State University. “I know how you feel but I can also see the visible articulation of your speech.” But, children with autism often avoid eye contact, and don’t look at other’s faces during verbal exchanges See the interview below..
Philip Rubin named to American Academy of Arts & Sciences
Commission on Learning
Philip Rubin, former Principal Assistant Director for Science, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Senior Advisor to the President, Haskins Laboratories was named to the Commission. « Read the News Release »
Dr. Pugh Recognized as Champion of Children
Dr. Kenneth R. Pugh was recognized as a ‘Champion of Children’ during Read to Grow’s 15th anniversary celebration on April 25th in Portland, CT. The Connecticut nonprofit promotes early childhood literacy.
Dr. Pugh’s leadership, research, and medical and academic accomplishments at Haskins Laboratories, Yale University, University of Connecticut and elsewhere in the nation and around the world.
« Read the News Release »
SCSU researchers looking for underlying communication difficulties among those with autism
“Haskins brings together neuroscientists, psychologists, linguists and engineers from across the world to understand human language. It’s not an easy task. Haskins must draw from many disciplines — speech is not simply a sound. It’s intertwined with the faces we see, the words we read, the ways we move our mouths. Haskins isn’t just about silence in a walled-off room of cones. . . . It’s about words, spoken and written. It’s about connection and communication, and about the moments when these connections crack."
« Read the full article at Yale Daily News »
Study Aims to Find Source of Childhood Autism Language Problems
Haskins Senior Scientist and SCSU Associate Professor Julia Irwin explains study focused on improving communication skills of children with autism
NEW HAVEN >> With his eyes tightly shut, Jerren Farrison sat while a net with dozens of electrodes was fitted over his head and face.
What must be a somewhat intimidating-looking net in the eyes of a 6-year-old will report out which parts of Jerren’s brain is working and when it is during different activities.
« Read the article in the New Haven Register »
The book will not only familiarize anyone who reads to young children with the essentials of promoting early and emerging literacy, but also contains more than 25 ready-to-go activities that can be immediately used to foster this critical skill development. « Read more »
Embracing Dyslexia: The Interviews - Dr. Ken Pugh
Published on Feb 23, 2014
Dr. Ken Pugh is President, Director of Research and a Senior Scientist at Haskins Laboratories in New Haven, Connecticut. He is also the Director of the Yale Reading Center.
Dr. Pugh's primary contributions have been in the areas of cognitive neuroscience and psycholinguistics. He was among the first scientists to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to reveal brain activity associated with reading and reading disabilities including those with dyslexia.
Levels of key brain chemicals predict children’s reading ability
New Haven, Conn. – Reading-impaired young children have higher levels of the metabolites
glutamate and choline in their brains, and these higher levels continue to be indicative of
difficulties in developing typical reading and language skills, a Yale study has found. The study
appears in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Haskins President and Director of Research Kenneth Pugh says researchers there have done extensive work on reading and writing development with a significant focus on dyslexia. He is often cited as an early user of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which can visually represent the brain activity that takes place during different cognitive tasks. « Read More »
RLE Remembers Professor Ken Stevens
He made many significant contributions to speech research, with some of the most highly cited articles in the field. His book, Acoustic Phonetics, is a touchstone for the analysis of the speech signal. He was very active in the Acoustical Society of America -- serving as President, and receiving the Silver Medal in Speech, and Gold Medal -- and heading the Speech Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT, supervising numerous graduate and post-doctoral students. At Haskins Laboratories, we were fortunate to have him serve on the Board of Directors from 1996 to 2005. « Read More »
Researchers Unlock the "Sound of Learning" by Linking Sensory and Motor Systems
Learning to talk also changes the way speech sounds are heard, according to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by scientists at Haskins Laboratories, a Yale-affiliated research laboratory. The findings could have a major impact on improving speech disorders. « Read More »