Professors Näätänen and Kujala received Philips Nordic Prize

Award-winning brain research method helps children with learning difficulties.

Picture of a baby (not connected to this research) Professor Emeritus Risto Näätänen and Professor Teija Kujala from the University of Helsinki were awarded the 2007 Philips Nordic Prize for research. The €50,000 prize was presented on Friday, 11th January in Lund, Sweden.

The MMN (mismatch negativity) method developed by Professor Näätänen reveals what type of hearing and speech difficulties a child has and how brain functions improve as a result of treatment.

Professor Teija Kujala from the University of Helsinki Cognitive Brain Research Unit, along with her research group, has developed applications from the method and used them in her research.

“MMN helps identify impaired hearing and linguistic processes at an early stage,” says Professor Kujala, “so that treatment could start before the child reaches school age.”

Different sounds are played to children while their brain activity is measured by EEG. The children need to actively engage their minds during testing, but it can be used with very young children, even babies.

Professor Kujala and her group have discovered, among other things, that audiovisual non-verbal exercises involving sound, colour, and shapes improve the literacy of dyslexic children.  It would follow that dyslexia is at least partly linked to an impaired perception of sound.

Says the Professor: “This award will facilitate the continuation of our work towards preventing children's learning difficulties or at least minimising them."

Text: Niina Viitanen
Photo: Sampsa Vanhatalo

Translation: Valtasana Oy
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