How Does the Brain Learn Language?
We communicate with one another using movements (gestures), sounds (speech), and symbols (writing). Language is intrinsically tied to our emotions, social relationships, and many other aspects of cognition. Much is still mysterious about the process. Here’s what we know so far.
KidTalk: A Natural Experiment in the Time of Covid-19
A new citizen-science project offers parents a virtual scrapbook to record their children’s speech, so researchers can see how their language skills develop in home settings—as well as see how they may be affected by staying at home during the pandemic.
Finding the Rhythm of LiteracyQ&A with Nina Kraus, Ph.D.
Dana grantee Nina Kraus and her lab discovered that synchronization ability, like tapping your foot along to a beat, matches the rapid brain activity linked to reading, language and phonological skills. Understanding children’s rhythmic strengths and bottlenecks could help teachers help them improve language skills.
The Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual
Today, more of the world’s population is bilingual or multilingual than monolingual. In addition to facilitating cross-cultural communication, this trend also positively affects cognitive abilities. Researchers have shown that the bilingual brain can have better attention and task-switching capacities than the monolingual brain, thanks to its developed ability to inhibit one language while using another. In addition, bilingualism has positive effects at both ends of the age spectrum: Bilingual children as young as seven months can better adjust to environmental changes, while bilingual seniors can experience less cognitive decline.
Children Need Natural Languages, Signed or Spoken
Sign languages are as different, and as specific to their communities, as spoken languages. They are, in fact, true natural human languages—a relatively recently discovered fact with crucial implications for the education of deaf children, say cognitive neuroscientist Daphne Bavelier and her colleagues. They probe both the profound similarities and notable differences that characterize signed and spoken languages, including how they are processed by the brain, and ask if the “devised systems” of communication now being tried with deaf children can ever replace the benefits of natural language.