Neural Markers and Plasticity of Language Dysfunctions

PI Teija Kujala

Time frame 2014–2018

Description This project includes both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies on the neural basis and plasticity of language processing and language disorders. This project increases the knowledge on early speech development and insight to the neural basis of dyslexia and specific language impairment. Moreover, the results concerning the biomarkers of dyslexia and early intervention of reading deficits potentially revolutionize reading-impairment prevention. The building blocks for language and learning skills are acquired in the childhood, which underlines the importance to understand brain development and its deficits and to find means to support this development. We will (1) determine neural mechanisms and plasticity underlying efficient speech perception, (2) develop means to study these functions in children and in infants, (3) assess how dysfunctions of these processes are associated with reading deficits, (4) develop biomarkers for the early detection of children with dyslexia risk, and (5) determine whether language intervention in infancy promotes later reading-skills of children at risk for dyslexia. The connection between low-level neural responses and language and cognitive functions will be illuminated and the association between these in preschool age and reading skills at school will be determined. Rapid automatic learning mechanisms will determined from infancy to adulthood and deficits in these mechanisms in dyslexia. Understanding of the neural basis, development, and deficits of language will increase. Neural and genetic markers of dyslexia will be identified. The influence of early auditory intervention on dyslexia will be determined. This project will increase knowledge on auditory and language development since birth until school-age and illuminate the neural and cognitive basis of dyslexia and other related language disorders, which are highly prevalent in children. If the intervention tested will be proven to be effective in dyslexia alleviation, it may be used to alleviate reading deficits in a large scale world-wide.

Methods electroencephalography (EEG), neuropsychological/perceptual/cognitive/behavioral tests, magnetoencephalography (MEG), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), gene analysis

Keywords speech processing, language deficits, dyslexia, neural plasticity, learning

People Paula Virtala, Eino Partanen, Soila Kuuluvainen, Lilli Kimppa, Anja Thiede, Miika Leminen

Collaborators Eira Jansson-Verkasalo (University of Turku), Juha Kere (Karolinska Institutet, Sweden), Marja Laasonen (University of Turku), Paavo Leppänen and Heikki Lyytinen (University of Jyväskylä), Kaija Mikkola and Jaana Nopola-Hemmi (Jorvi hospital); Jyrki Mäkelä (HUCH), Maija Peltola (University of Turku), Martti Vainio (University of Helsinki), Friedemann Pulvermüller (Free University of Berlin, Germany), Pia Rämä (University of Paris Descartes, France), Erich Schröger (University of Leipzig, Germany), Yury Shtyrov (Cambridge, UK), Elyse Sussman (Albert Einstein Collece of Medicine, New York, USA), Istvan Winkler (Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary)

Funding Academy of Finland, Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation