Neuroplasticity of Language – NeoLanG

Language is a powerful means for human interaction and thinking. Our group participates in discovering the fascinating neural phenomena underlying language.

We study a variety of language and auditory functions and their plasticity in the brain, ranging from the representations of speech sounds to the memory of words and word structure. Our aim is to understand influences of language learning, sensory or neural dysfunctions, and intervention on these processes.

neolangImage1

The left arcuate fasciculus is a white matter tract important for language processing. The different colours mark different segments.

 

 

We aim to illuminate all levels of language functions, ranging from phonology to the processing of meaning, by using multi-modal neuroimaging.

Our work has shown that memory traces of speech sounds and words operate in an automatic fashion. Furthermore, the strength of word-specific memory traces is determined by everyday language use. We have also pinpointed the neural networks for morphologically complex words. One of our main interests is the interplay of established language memory networks and the influence of learning on speech representations.

Our research strives to uncover the mechanisms underlying the development and learning of language across the life span, by using behavioural and brain research methods. Our studies comprise the development and experience-induced plasticity of speech sound and word representations from the fetal stage until adulthood. In particular, we are interested in the establishment of long-term memory representations for novel speech sounds and words, and the effects of the native language on foreign-language learning.

The ability to use more than one language is becoming increasingly useful. We address questions such as what kind of influence – e.g., advantages or disadvantages – the acquisition and use of two languages has on linguistic and nonlinguistic cognitive processes. How are two languages represented and organized in the brain, how does the system control the selection of a language, and how does the age of acquisition affect these processes? With behavioral and neurophysiological measures, we study children and adults to uncover how learning two or more languages influences our cognitive processes throughout the life span.

Language-related developmental disorders are quite prevalent, compromising learning and well-being of a large number of children. Our work, employing neurophysiological, brain imaging, and neurocognitive approaches illuminates the neural basis of developmental dyslexia, autism spectrum, and specific language impairment. Furthermore, we aim to determine the developmental trajectories of language skills with follow-up studies and the amelioration of language-related deficits with intervention studies.

We use all main cognitive/systemic neuroscience methods (EEG, TMS, MEG, fMRI) and psychophysiological measures such as electromyography and skin conduction recordings. These methods are complemented by neuropsychological and other performance tests and DNA analyses. Our studies are conducted at the Institute of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki, at the Helsinki University Central Hospital (Biomag laboratory), Helsinki, and at the AMI Center, Helsinki University of Technology, Espoo.

  • Predictive coding in language learning (University of Helsinki; PI: Sari Ylinen; 2015-2017)
  • Neural markers and plasticity of language dysfunctions (the Academy of Finland; PI: Teija Kujala, Co-PI: Paula Virtala; 2014-2018; lukivauva.com)
  • Neural basis and biomarkers of dyslexia (Jane and Aatos Erkko foundation; PI: Teija Kujala, Co-PI: Paula Virtala; 2014-2017; lukivauva.com)
  • “Say it again, kid!”- game and speech technology in foreign language learning in children (Academy of Finland; PI: Risto Näätänen; 2014-2017)
  • Sanat kielellisisssä verkostoissa/Words in linguistic networks (Kone Foundation, PI: Alina Leminen, 2014-2016)
  • Neurocognitive basis of bilingualism (Emil  Aaltonen Foundation and University of Helsinki; PI: Minna Lehtonen;  2013-2016)
  1. Academy of Finland
  2. Doctoral Programme of Psychology, Learning and Communication (PsyCo)
  3. The Ella and Georg Ehrnrooth Foundation
  4. The Emil Aaltonen Foundation
  5. Finnish Concordia Fund
  6. Finnish Cultural Foundation
  7. Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation
  8. Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation
  9. KONE Foundation
  10. University of Helsinki
  • 10.6.2016 – Interview with Teija Kujala – Helsingin Sanomat: Teija Kujala osoitti, että sikiölle kannattaa laulaa ja jutella– tutkija soitti syntymättömille lapsille Tuiki tuiki tähtöstä
  • 01.2016 – interview with Teija Kujala, Central Union for Child Welfare publication Lapsen maailma, Lukivaikeus saatetaan havaita jo vauvalla
  • 17.3.2016 – News article: Maaseudun tulevaisuus, Musiikkiharrastus tuo hyvän koulutodistuksen
  • 11.11.2015 – News article: Suur-Jyväskylän lehti
  • 2.11.2015 – News article online: YLE Uutiset, Aivotutkija laittaisi lapsen muskariin
  • 2.11.2015 – Radio interview of Dr. Paula Virtala in a local radio station: YLE Radio Perämeri
  • 16.10.2015 – News article online: YLE Uutiset, Periko lapsesi sinulta lukihairion ei hataa apua voi jo loytya kotoasi
  • 7.10.2015 – TV insert in a magazine programme, interview of Dr. Paula Virtala: YLE Puoli seitsemän, TV1
  • 25.9.2015 – Radio interview of Prof. Teija Kujala in a national radio station: YLE Radio 1, Tiedeykkönen
  • 2.9.2015 – News article online: YLE Uutiset, Vauvojen aivot voivat paljastaa ensimerkit lukivaikeuksista
  • 31.8.2015 – News article online: YLE Uutiset, Yliopisto hakee vauvoja lukihairiotutkimukseen
  • 15.8.2015 – Radio interview of Dr. Paula Virtala in a national radio station: Radio Nova, Racing Team
  • 27.4.2015 – News article online including a video and on printed paper: Helsingin Sanomat, Lukihäiriö voi näkyä jo vastasyntyneellä
  • 27.4.2015 – News article online: Iltalehti, Loruile ja laula jo pienelle vauvalle
  • 28.10.2014 – Radio interview of Prof. Teija Kujala in a national radio station: YLE Radio 1, Tiedeykkönen
  • 27.10.2014 – News article online: YLE Tiede, Voiko lukivaikeutta hoitaa jo vauvana uusi tutkimus alkamassa